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A Fremont man created this model of San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square from Legos. He reported to police that the sculpture was among several stolen from his car earlier this month. (Courtesy photo)

FREMONT — The San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, Ghirardelli Square and the Conservatory of Flowers have gone missing.

Custom Lego renditions of the San Francisco landmarks — conservatively valued at about $6,000 — have been stolen from a Fremont family, and they want them back.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking," said Jannet Benz, wife of 49-year-old Mark Benz, the man who built the Lego landmarks. "He spent several years creating those. "... I'd love to get them back."

The landmarks were recently on exhibit at the Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto as part of a Bay Area exhibition of Legos, Jannet Benz said.

They were stolen from the family's pickup Feb. 3, the night Mark Benz brought them back to his south Fremont home.

The structures are made from hundreds of thousands of plastic pieces and were left overnight in the family's vehicle.

Some of them were concealed in the covered and locked bed of the truck, while others were in the cab, strapped into the rear seats with seat belts, she said.

Sometime overnight, thieves broke into the vehicle and stole every piece.

"My daughter was nearly in tears when she saw broken Legos in the street," Jannet Benz said.

The large pieces can be carried by one person if they are taking their time, she said. She suspects there probably was more than one thief, and they had to be driving a large vehicle.

Benz's husband is a member of the Bay Area Lego Users Group, which is made up of more than 100 people who share a passion for the plastic building blocks.


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Their creations, often centered around landmarks in the region, are exhibited throughout the Bay Area.

Mark Benz's creations were scheduled to be part of an exhibit later this month in Santa Clara, his wife said.

Since the theft, Jannet Benz said her husband has been looking for the landmarks. He recently visited a flea market in San Jose in hopes of finding them, but he did not spot them.

Now, more than a week after the theft, the structures likely have been dismantled by the thieves, she said. She suspects that someone will try to sell the pieces in bulk lots.

"It's doubtful we'll get them back, and that's absolutely heart breaking," she said.

The entire Benz family has been involved in Lego for several years.

Mark Benz and his son — who is now in college — once built a replica of Mission San Jose as a school project. And Mark Benz constructed a 10-foot rendition of the Bay Bridge. That vast piece was not included in the recent display and was not stolen, his wife said.

"We're just a bunch of Lego maniacs," she said.

Anyone with information on the theft may call police at 510-790-6900.

Contact Ben Aguirre Jr. at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/benaguirrejr.