Phoenix police say they have arrested four people in a retail-theft scheme involving at least $40,000 in Legos stolen from various Toys "R" Us stores, and they recovered a total of $200,000 in Lego play sets from one of the suspect's homes.
Garry Fairbee, 35, Tarah Dailey, 33, Melissa Dailey, 34, and Troy Koehler, 40, were arrested in connection with the scheme, according to Officer James Holmes, a Phoenix Police spokesman.
The Lego sets stolen and later recovered by police were large and designed to be used to build larger Lego projects, Holmes said. The stolen sets were valued between $99 and $500.
Detectives from the Phoenix Police Organized Commercial Crimes/Business and Economic Stability Team were notified by Toys "R" Us management in March about a large number of Lego playsets being stolen from multiple stores across the Valley.
Detectives reviewed surveillance video and were able to identify Fairbee and Tarah Dailey as being involved in the thefts, Holmes said.
Fairbee and Dailey were seen entering multiple Toys "R" Us stores and selecting Lego sets valued at $99 or more, after which Fairbee would remove the theft-detection device and damage the packaging, Holmes said.
The pair would then either place the sets in large gift bags or pile gift bags over the merchandise before wheeling them out of the store in a shopping cart without setting off alarms, Holmes said.
Detectives following the pair around the Valley to see what they were doing with the Lego sets discovered they were selling the stolen Legos for about 25 percent of their value to Koehler, Holmes said.
During the investigation, detectives learned that Koehler was selling the stolen Legos online, Holmes said. He also reportedly bought Lego sets worth hundreds of dollars and used the receipts to return the stolen sets with the damaged packaging for a full refund. Holmes said Koehler was clearing around $300 a set through this practice and by selling the sets online.
Detectives had been following Fairbee and Melissa Dailey, Tarah Dailey's cousin, and on Thursday when they saw them sell stolen Lego sets to Koehler near 7th Avenue and Bell Road and took all three into custody, Holmes said.
Investigators found the garage of Koehler's residence completely filled with Lego sets and discovered that he also had three large storage units filled with Lego sets, Holmes said.
Approximately 18 pallets of Legos, or three truckloads, were seized from Koehler's home and storage units, according to Holmes.
The total value of the Legos recovered is estimated to be around $200,000, with at least $40,000 of the Legos believed to be stolen from Valley Toys "R" Us stores.
"What's really sad about it is you're talking about a kids store," Holmes said, noting that the store is frequented by parents and their young children.
Fairbee is being held in a Maricopa County jail on suspicion of trafficking stolen property and removing theft-detection devices, according to a police statement. Melissa Dailey is being held on suspicion of trafficking stolen property, as is Koehler, who is also facing fraudulent schemes/artifices allegations. Tarah Dailey was also being held Friday in a Maricopa County jail, but information on her arrest was not immediately available.
Police do not know how long the operation has been going on, but believe it began long before their notification in March, Holmes said. Investigators credited Toys "R" Us with being proactive in accounting for their inventory and doing much of the legwork before the investigation began.