California police find 2,800 stolen Lego sets

Two people were arrested in California as part of a suspected Lego theft ring after police found more than 2,800 stolen sets.

Police said Friday they found boxes of Lego stacked to the ceiling inside a man's home in Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles.

The toys ranged in price from $20 to over $1,000 (£16 to over £786).

Richard Siegel, 71, and Blanca Gudino, 39, were arrested in connection with a series of organised retail thefts that stem back several months, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Authorities started investigating in December after a store reported a series of thefts. The store's loss prevention personnel identified Gudino as a suspect, police said.

Officers said they observed Ms Gudino taking items from the same retailer in multiple areas this week, then give Mr Siegel the sets at his Long Beach home.

Detectives searched the home Wednesday and found more than 2,800 boxes of Lego. While officers searched, police said potential buyers of the toys arrived at the home "lured by advertisements placed by Siegel on internet sales sites".

It was not clear whether Mr Siegel and Ms Gudino had lawyers.

Photos from the investigation show Lego sets meticulously organised in a home, with the boxes covering artwork on the walls and a fireplace.

The Lego included popular sets from the Star Wars franchise like the Millennium Falcon, which go for nearly $850 online (£668), and R2-D2, which are priced from $100 to $200 online (£79 to £157). There were also sets from the Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future franchises.

Siegel faces a charge of organized retail theft and Gudino is facing a charge of grand theft.

Expensive Lego sets have become a popular target for thieves, especially as the sets have expanded from a child's toy to a popular hobby for adults.

Thefts have been chronicled by local media in places like Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Florida.

In April, four suspects were arrested after authorities found about $300,000 in stolen Lego merchandise, according to the California Highway Patrol. The suspects are accused of stealing Lego sets for cars, motorcycles, Star Wars items and Minecraft products to resell them.

Also in southern California this year, more than $100,000 worth of Lego was stolen from retailer Bricks & Minifigs, a speciality store that sells new and used Lego, according to BBC news partner CBS News.

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