LEGO Cantina catastrophe

by Bill Cable
on 2024-01-17, 09:34:50

It's been a miserable few days. The biggest reason is because the Steelers' season ended Monday. It takes me several days of mourning to get over that. But what is adding to it is a sad tale that started out so promising...

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With the Steelers game delayed, I found myself with an entire day with nothing to do. So I figured it was finally time to start building the LEGO Mos Eisley Cantina set I'd purchased off Craig's List back in October. I was pumped! I dumped out the bags and started to sort them, and noticed something odd... a few of the bags had the same numbers on them. And I thought "that's weird... but I know sometimes LEGO puts the tiny pieces in their own bags and this is a huge set, so maybe it's something like that..."

I found bag #1 and opened it, and discovered I couldn't find the bricks for the first step in the instructions. Also, the bag was supposed to have Luke Skywalker, and this bag had old Boba Fett from The Mandalorian. And slowly my heart sunk...

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I sifted through the bags, and discovered some were from Boba Fett's Throne Room 75326. I haven't put the effort into identifying the others... but none of them have minifigs inside.

So I contacted the guy, "Jake," and told him the set had been tampered with and I needed my money back. We went though a lot of back-and-forth texts, which went about as well as you would probably expect. "How do I know YOU didn't swap out the sets?" "LEGO guarantees your sets as long as you have the box! Just call them." And holes started popping up in his story. It was clear I'd been ripped off, intentionally, by Jake.

I searched for his cell number to see if I could find his full name and address. And I discovered several news articles that he'd been arrested multiple times for theft. One was a chainsaw he stole from a work site and tried to sell on Craig's List. Another time he stole goods from Lowe's, then returned them and used the gift cards to buy tools. I got ready to notify the police.

Then I found him on Facebook, and I saw he was a US Army Veteran. And now I'm in a dilemma. Over the past 15+ years I've been supporting Veterans charities through PSWCS.org... a lot of them dealing with at-risk Veterans who commit crimes. Wouldn't it be hypocritical for me to pursue action against one just because I was the victim here? He has two toddlers. I'm sure he used the little money he made off this scam to feed them or keep a roof over their heads.

The first thing I did was reach out to one of the charities who PSWCS.org held a fundraiser for and asked if they could assist him. They reached out, and were basically threatened...

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Weird since he never called the police on me, as far as I know...

I'm inclined to drop it for the sake of his kids... but then I think, do I have a civic duty to pursue this? Is he a menace? His arrests were last January, and he ripped me off in October. If he's continuing to commit crimes even after being arrested, do I have an obligation to report this to protect potential future victims? Maybe that gets him some actual rehabilitation he'll accept?

What sucks most is I thought I was being so diligent. He listed the set at a great price. His reasoning for why he priced it so low was absolutely plausible. He said he'd been flipping LEGOs for years, had a storage unit full of them, but now that he has young kids he doesn't have time to do all that and is just trying to clear out the unit. Pretty much every collection I've purchased has been because the owner wanted to get out of the hobby with as little fuss as possible. So that seemed legit.

He lived over an hour north of me, so I asked another PSWCS member to pick it up for me. I instructed her to slice open the "original" tape, look inside and make sure the bricks were the right color. That's exactly what she did, after talking to him at length about his kids and how he did this all the time. He presented himself to her as 100% legitimate, and nothing he did raised any red flags. I'd spoken to him on the phone at length, and the only thing he seemed to be concerned with was if he sliced the tape the set loses value, exactly what I'd expect a LEGO dealer to say.

So I'm still figuring out my next steps. I know I'll never see the money, and that's fine. But if I do report him, is that something that'll deter him from future crime? Or will it make him more desperate and maybe he escalates? There's no obvious right answer that I can see. It all just sucks. If only he'd accepted the help that was offered, I could have been content.





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