June 24, 2023


The case of the Lego Bandit: Playing with Star Wars Lego bricks made them famous. Then a mysterious crime drove them apart. (David Kushner, May 21, 2023, Insider)

On October 4, 2018, a young Frenchman named Louis came home from work to find the window in his front door smashed. A practical-minded 20-year-old with short dark hair, he figured it was just another petty crime in the rural outskirts of Paris, where he lived with his parents. But when he saw the familiar gleam of a tiny red plastic brick on the driveway, his stomach plunged. It was his Lego.

In brickspeak, Louis is an Adult Fan of Lego -- known as AFOLs, for short -- and among the most ardent. His grandmother gave him his first set, the Lego Clone Scout Walker, for his sixth birthday, igniting a singular passion that hasn't let up since. Under his handle Republicattak (the missing "c" a childhood misspelling that gnaws at him), he shares his custom Star Wars-themed builds on his YouTube channel. Unlike many aspiring influencers, he keeps his identity private, other than his first name, to avoid embarrassment at work. "Otherwise, it'll be very awkward," he tells me over Zoom in his thick French accent. "Because in my videos, I'm very much like, basically, a grown man playing with toys."

On that October day, his toys were everywhere. Colorful parts littered the walkway outside his house -- a green baseplate here, a yellow sloped brick there. As Louis slowly followed the trail, he recognized chunks of his most beloved builds: a broken cockpit from his UCS X-Wing, the black treads ripped from his Clone Turbo Tank, a limbless Stormtrooper Minifigure staring helplessly from inside its helmet. "It was like a horror movie," he recalls, "but for Lego."

Though his parents were away, Louis feared the intruder might still be inside as he pushed open the broken front door. Nervously, he followed the trail of Lego to his bedroom. Since that first gift from his grandma, he'd painstakingly acquired, cataloged, and dusted ("just the dust," he tells me, is "terrible, painful work") more than 300 sets worth more than $20,000.

Now, his collection appeared to have been blasted by a Death Star Superlaser. Whole models had vanished, mint-condition boxes were ransacked, and scattered across the floor were the remnants of his most valuable builds.

His cash and laptops were untouched, but the Millennium Falcon his parents had given him was gone; so was the original Clone Scout Walker from his grandma. Most painful of all, the intruders had destroyed the massive, original Lego opus he'd been building over nights and long weekends for 10 months, a 35,000-piece installation he called "Imperial Gate."

Posted by at June 24, 2023 12:31 AM