SEATTLE - A man is behind bars tonight after being arrested following an undercover sting operation at pike place market to recover hundreds of stolen Lego sets. The Seattle shop owner is accused of knowingly buying thousands of dollars of stolen property and then reselling the items in his store, with one of the biggest items being pricey Lego sets.
RJ Coughlin has loved Legos his entire life. "Pretty much my first memory is getting a Lego set for Christmas." In his "Lego room" he has roughly 250,000 pieces. "That is not a lot, I know that some people may think that’s a lot but I do know some people who are in the million brick club at this point."
Coughlin is on the board of directors for Brickcon, which he said is the longest running fan convention for adult Lego enthusiasts in America. So when it comes to Lego related crime, he’s in the know. "There are literally organized retail theft rings that specialize in stealing Lego, it’s been happening for several years."
Coughlin said while Lego theft is an issue across the country, "it’s very very prominent I think here in the northwest." He said he thinks that’s in part because there’s such demand for Lego sets in this area, especially high end sets designed for adults that can set you back $800 a pop.
"You could go to Fred Meyer and Walmart in many parts of the city in the outlying areas and you’ll actually see Lego sets are locked up between big glass cases," said Coughlin.
This summer, a downtown Amazon store started noticing a shoplifter taking off with star wars logo sets and other items sometimes multiple times a day. As the loss creeped up into the thousands, an amazon employee walked into a pike place market store and recognized some of the stolen items. Thus began SPD’s months long investigation-that revealed the storeowner allegedly bought the items from a shoplifter and then sold them in his shop. SPD said they confiscated 171 stolen Lego sets.
Coughlin said he wasn’t that surprised to hear about it, considering what he sees regularly. "You will see shelves that are pretty much empty and if you talk to the employees they will tell you someone literally came that morning, loaded up the cart full of Lego and just walked right out there."
He said if you buy a Lego for a deal that seems too good to be true, "There’s probably a reason for that."
The shop owner is being held on suspicion of trafficking in stolen property. SPD said the investigation into the actual shoplifter is still ongoing.
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