Friday, February 15, 2013

Slippery Slope


I saw a news report the other day about Thomas Langenbach, the Vice President who was arrested and charged with four felony counts of burglary for stealing Legos at various Target stores. In a “barcode scam,” Langenbach placed homemade labels over the real labels, which enabled him to purchase the Legos for much less than the actual price. He then sold the Legos on eBay, earning nearly $30,000, according to the Mountain View police department. Apparently, anyone can make barcode labels fairly easily using Microsoft Excel software.

During a search of Langebach’s home, police found piles of fake price tags and several boxes of unopened Legos.

When asked by a reporter why a “highly paid executive would steal Legos,” Langenbach had no comment, and he’s pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

Seeing as Langebach was recorded on three separate store cameras and considering the evidence police found in his home, I’m curious to know what his defense will be. But perhaps it will go along these lines—Langenbach didn’t steal anything. He bought the Legos boxes to the cashier, and the cashier totaled the boxes and told Langenbach how much to pay. Langenbach paid it. End of story. In any case, this is the opinion offered by commenter "Tony" on, a blog about security and security technology.

While there’s a certain logic to this argument, come on

I’m reminded of Anthony Armatys, who pleaded guilty to second-degree theft after it was discovered that close to $480,000 had been mistakenly deposited into Armatys’ bank and retirement accounts. Armatys had been hired by a company and subsequently filled out the necessary paperwork for HR and payroll. At the last minute, however, Armatys decided not to accept the position. His information was deleted from the HR system (go HR!) but not the company’s payroll system. Five years later, the company discovered the error and began investigating. (Damn, company! Five years later! What gives?)

The prosecutor said that Armatys used the money as “regular disposal income” (as opposed to donating it all to charity or something, I don’t know), which I assume he thought was a bad thing. At the time of the trial, Armatys faced prison time and orders to repay the money. 

So I’m thinking, if this guy had no defense, then Langenbach surely doesn’t. I mean, yes, Armatys had to know that he hadn’t earned the money, but it’s not like he filled out fake timesheets to get it. The company screwed up big time, and I assume that some payroll clerk somewhere had a really bad day when all this came to light. 

But back to Langenbach. Phil Peretz, President of Nationwide Barcode, says that newer technology is making this type of fraud more difficult for thieves, but the technology is expensive. He advises business owners that the best defense is—guess what? Employee training. That’s right. 

As an HR professional, this delights me. Invest in your people, managers. Teach them that if the box of Legos sold five minutes ago, or heck yesterday, to Customer X now costs three times less for Customer Y, something fishy is going on. Three cheers for critical thinking skills! Yay!

What do you think? Is Langenbach guilty?


  1. Guilty - time this man saw a few bars from the inside of a prison!!!!

    1. Actually, that'll be interesting. Will he see jail time? Or will he get some other punishment? I wonder.