Leather jacket scam may be three years old

Man gave up a MacBook pro for leather jackets that turned out to be fakes — scammer appears to be using same con again

A man calling himself "Salvatore" and driving a white, late-model luxury SUV appears to be remounting a leather jacket scam that a suspect used to try to bilk people out of money and personal computers three years ago.

Last week, The Tri-City News reported that a dark-haired man with a swarthy complexion used a ruse about needing directions to the Vancouver International Airport as an opening gambit to get Farrell Hannah to "trade" $600 in cash for Italian leather jackets purportedly worth $1,100 to $1,400. Salvatore said he needed the money buy an iPad for his daughter. The incident occurred last month outside an HSBC branch on North Road in Coquitlam.

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Since the story was published last Friday, The Tri-City News has received two more complaints about a similar scam, one taking place on May 2 at Shaughnessy Station in Port Coquitlam and another in November 2015 outside the Coquitlam Ikea store.

In both instances, the ruse was similar to the one in last week's article. In the May 2 incident, the man with the leather jackets pulled out a photocopied map of Vancouver and asked that the route to the airport be pencilled in. The man then offered a leather coat with a fur collar.

In the Nov. 17, 2015 incident, Mike Schenstead took a photo of the man in the car and passed it on to the Coquitlam RCMP.

Police spokesperson Const. Jamie Phillipson said he only found one recent May 4 incident in police files but his search revealed a press release dating back to December 2013, when a man calling himself Salvatore and speaking with an accent claimed to be a distributor of fine leather jackets from Italy. In the press release, the man was reported as saying he needed to unload his sample stock before returning home.

Unfortunately, the man was able to persuade a victim to trade in a brand new MacBook Pro laptop, along with several hundred dollars, for several leather jackets, which turned out to be made of vinyl.

Const. Phillipson said it's important for people to call the police if they think they have been approached by a scammer, and get a file number so an investigation can proceed.

"If you do come across this, there's some really good information that can help us to identify the suspect," he said, noting that information such as a licence plate number, location where the encounter took place and the time are important details to pass on.

"We have a situation three years ago but nothing since May 4. There's maybe a likelihood the person is mobile and driving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction," Phillipson said.

The similarities between the incidents and the targets suggest the ruse has been occurring for several years.

For one man, who was approached outside Shaughnessy Station around 3 p.m. on May 2, the incident began with a request for directions to the airport and a photocopied map of MetroVancouver on which he pencilled in the route from PoCo.

The man then offered an expensive-looking leather coat with a fur collar.

"I even said out loud, 'You're not giving me a leather coat.' I just did not believe it," the man wrote in an email to The Tri-City News.

The man said he didn't want to have to pay duty on the coats on his return trip to Italy and ran the flame of a lighter up and down the sleeve to prove it wasn't vinyl. Then he asked "How much for an iPad in Canada?"

The man then asked how much money he had on him. "All I had to do was give him $300 [for an iPad mini for his daughter] and wouldn't that be a fair trade."

When the local man said he only had $20 on him, the scammer suggested he get money from the nearby credit union.

He declined and then told a nearby security guard about the issue.

• If you have any information regarding a similar incident, contact Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550 to report it. Anyone wishing to provide information anonymously in relation to this scam can contact Crime Stoppers.

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