Reward offered in $250,000 Pokemon store break-in in Minnesota
Multiple burglars are suspected and police want to catch ’em all
ST. PAUL -- The theft of more than $250,000 in Pokemon cards from a Forest Lake, Minnesota, gaming store last week sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie.
A masked intruder, hoping to evade Punch-Out Gaming’s 16 security cameras and numerous motion detectors, broke into the vacant shop next door and then smashed two large holes through the adjoining wall to gain entry to the storage rooms.
“Have you seen ‘Money Heist’ or ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ with the holes and everything? That’s what it was like,” said Eric Johnson, who has owned the store with his identical-twin brother Mike since 2014. “It’s insane. I never thought in a million years something like this would happen.”
A $500 reward is being offered to anyone who provides information that leads to the burglar’s arrest and conviction.
Mike Johnson discovered the theft around 9:30 a.m. Thursday when he went to open for business. Security-camera footage puts the time of break-in at 1:39 a.m. Thursday.
The man knew what he was doing, Johnson said. He first broke into the defunct Trump Shop, which sold President Donald Trump-themed merchandise, then knew exactly where to punch through the wall – in two separate spots – to get into the areas where the Pokemon merchandise was stored.
“They were pretty precise on where they went through, which leads us to believe it was somebody who used to work here or it’s someone we know who has seen those rooms or something, because that’s pretty spot on,” he said. “Our store has so much security here, but we don’t have a motion sensor in our storage room because we never thought someone would go through a wall.”
Another clue that the man knew the shop well: One of the storage spaces doubles as the store’s bathroom. “I have nowhere else to put it,” said Johnson, who lives in Forest Lake. “I even have to store product at home.”
Johnson said he believes the man was working with a partner because of the large amount of Pokemon product that was stolen. Among the missing merch: 72 Pokemon Evolving Skies Booster Boxes, each worth about $140.
But the burglar missed one key item: the store’s Wells Fargo bank bag, which had $15,000 in cash inside, he said.
When the burglar crawled into the first storage area, “he looked up and saw the monitor with the 16 cameras on it,” Eric Johnson said. “He looked a little closer and saw he was on one, so he turned around and tried to rip the camera off the wall. He failed at that, so he put tape over it.”
The burglar, wearing gloves and a nylon mask, can be seen peering into the frame as he works to cover the camera, but he took off a glove to remove some tape. Johnson believes detectives were able to get fingerprints from the tape and from a handprint on the wall in the former Trump Shop, he said.
Johnson said he’s amazed no one has recognized the man and called police. “I thought someone would recognize him right away,” he said.
He and others also have been monitoring resale gaming websites but haven’t seen any of the stolen goods for sale, he said. “We carry a lot of Japanese products that other stores don’t carry. It’s a very niche thing. If we saw someone selling it, we would know.”
The shop is the largest seller of Pokemon products in Minnesota, Eric Johnson said.
“It’s crazy because we didn’t even sell Pokemon a year and half ago,” he said. “I saw the hype coming, and then we just started buying it from our distributors and started selling it. It’s insane how much the stuff is worth now.”
The Johnsons say they are grateful for all the help they have received from Pokemon players and the Forest Lake community.
“Everyone has just been amazing and very supportive throughout this entire thing,” he said. “We want to thank our customers. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Anyone with information about the break-in is asked to call the Forest Lake Police Department at 651-464-5877.