POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — To Chad Rippey, what happened overnight Wednesday at his Lakeland, Florida, store was anything but a game.
“We had Crown Zenith premium collections, they took. We had Obsidian Flame booster boxes, they took all of,” said Rippey. “Build and battles and booster bundles — they took all of those as well.”
The “Pokémon” game bandit, or bandits, also stole newly released and hard-to-find Disney-themed “Lorcana” card games.
Rippey said the games are only available right now at local game stores or online, where they are being re-sold for $300 each.
“I expect this to be the ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ — if anybody remembers that — of this holiday season,” said Rippey. The owner said the thieves appeared to know what they were taking.
Rippey is co-owner of Decks & Dice Tournament Center off U.S. 92 in Lakeland.
The store, which opened on Black Friday in 2020, sells trading card games and collectibles and hosts tournaments.
Thursday morning, Rippey got a call from his landlord about a theft at the store.
Somebody had broken in by smashing the glass front door.
“We didn’t know how bad it would be. Obviously, they could have cleaned us out of everything, which would have been devastating. I mean, we were frustrated, angry, mad,” he said.
Rippey estimates he lost $5,500 worth of retail. This is not a one-off when it comes to “Pokémon” card-related thefts.
In Indianapolis, two men are under investigation for allegedly stealing $300,000 worth of cards at Gen Con earlier this month.
“They’re desperate for money or possibly a career criminal, but obviously, they don’t have good morals. They’re not a good person,” he said.
In Rippey’s case, Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives are gathering video evidence and contacting local stores to be on the lookout for the stolen items.
“We’re asking for tips. So if anybody was passing by here and saw a suspicious person on Wednesday night, this is a very active roadway here,” said Brian Bruchey, Public Information Officer with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
People with information can also contact Heartland Crimestoppers at 1-800-226 TIPS (8477).
Meanwhile, Rippey is trying to move forward, despite the loss.
He said upcoming tournaments will be impacted.
Some “Pokémon” box sets are sold out.
“I don’t have booster boxes for those tournaments now, so that will affect it. I was planning on hosting like a half-case tournament. Probably not gonna be able to do that now,” said Rippey.
He said shop owners from Polk County and surrounding areas have reached out to help and watch out for the stolen products.