Last week, Portland police arrested 40-year old Raji Azar on suspicion of running a large Lego ‘fencing’ scheme that involved buying stolen Lego sets and selling them online for large profits. During Azar’s court arraignment on Friday he faced two-dozen felonies related to the scheme.
According to a statement by Portland Police, detectives on the case think Azar would solicit Lego thefts on sites like Craigslist and OfferUp from “people who often times suffered from addiction to opioids and other drugs.” After the Lego sets had been stolen, Azar would purchase them from the thief and turn around and sell them online for a profit, a practice known as ‘fencing.’
When police searched Azar’s house, they found enough Lego sets to line Azar’s driveway. The value of the Lego was estimated to be about $50,000 by investigators from Fred Meyer, the supermarket chain they were believed to be stolen from.
Azar’s Lego crime ring was brought down through joint efforts by investigators
in the Fred Meyer Organized Retail Theft Unit and the Northwest Organized Retail Crime Alliance. Last Thursday, Azar met with undercover cops who were posing as theft suspects looking to unload a large Lego haul for a fraction of its retail value. Azar was arrested after he met with the undercover investigators and bought what he believed to be $13,000 of stolen Lego sets from them.
Although Lego may seem like an odd criminal racket, stealing these toys is almost the perfect crime. They have high retail value and no serial numbers, which makes it hard for investigators to determine whether a given set is stolen.
This probably explains the string of large Lego thefts over the past few years, including another $50,000 bust in Portland in 2016 after the thief tried to sell the Lego sets to undercover cops. A man in Florida dubbed the ‘Lego Bandit’ shoplifted nearly $2 million worth of Lego sets and other toys. In 2014, police in Phoenix, Arizona busted a crime ring that had boosted over $200,000 worth of Lego sets.