$6,000 Worth of Legos Stolen From Man's Truck


The highly detailed scenes, including Lego renditions of Ghirardelli Square, the Palace of Fine Arts and the Hyde Street Pier, were reported stolen Feb. 3. The owner, 49-year-old Mark Benz, designed them all himself and is a founding member of the Bay Area Lego Users Group, a club of Lego enthusiasts.

The scenes' value is estimated at $6,000. However, that figure doesn't begin to factor in the months and years of effort Benz devoted to their creation, said his wife, Janet.

The couple brought the scenes home the previous evening from the Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto, where they spent more than a month in the venue's popular Living LEGO-cy display.

"The entire back camper shell was full and we had pieces strapped to the backseat of the truck," Janet Benz said. The next morning, her husband came outside and discovered somebody "punched the locks on the car and took all of it."

The truck was parked in the driveway of Benz's home in the 600 block of Geyser Court. Police do not know whether the thief - or thieves - knew what was inside the truck, Detective Bill Veteran said.

Benz said the truck has tinted windows, and the burglary occurred between 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. when it was dark outside.

Mark Benz devotes months to each of his creations, his wife said. She described the entire diorama as "a 10-year evolutionary process."

His most recent project, a replica of the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, was particularly challenging because of the building is both transparent and curved.

Each miniature landmark is an original creation, Janet Benz said. Her husband begins with a picture of the structure, then creates a Lego version through trial and error. The scenes include hundreds of custom pieces he special-ordered from Lego.

Specialty pieces cost a few dollars each, and Janet Benz estimated that hundreds of thousands of traditional and specialty Lego pieces were stolen.

Police have advised the Benz family to keep an eye on eBay and Craigslist in case the stolen Legos appear for sale.

However, Janet Benz is not optimistic.

"They can take it apart and sell it and probably make as much money," she said. "If they dismantle it, it becomes difficult to prove that it's ours."

The stolen scenes represent the majority of Mark Benz's Lego accomplishments, his wife said.

"We still have the Bay Bridge," she said, as well as an elaborate replica of Mission San Jose her husband and son built for a fourth-grade project, using 1,800 Lego pieces.

Police said they have no leads and are asking for the public's help in locating the distinctive Lego structures. Anyone with information should call Fremont police at (510) 790-6800.

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