This is an embarrassing story to reveal, but I would rather put my embarrassment aside to protect others. There are two guys representing themselves as Italians on business who are running a scam in Santa Monica with faux leather jackets. They have been all over the country. It looks like they were arrested once and are, in fact, from Italy. If you Google “E.G.A. Emporio Jackets Italians” you can see the countless stories of people they scammed. My story is almost identical.
Two guys pulled up to me (in the Vons/Rite Aid parking lot near 12th Street and Wilshire Boulevard) in a brand new Jeep SUV humbly asking for directions to LAX because they were lost after attending a high-end fashion event. I chatted with them for 10 minutes about Italy and we swapped stories about L.A. traffic and traffic in Milan. As I turned to get into my car, the driver offered that I had been so nice he wanted to give me a jacket. I declined, but he insisted. He told me it was Armani and very expensive. I told him I didn’t know anything about high-end brands. All of the sudden he wants to give me one for my girlfriend. He told me they were flying back to Milan and that he would have to pay import duty and in a way I was helping him out.
Then he put a third jacket in the bag and said he was giving me all this and all he really wanted was for me to help him out with his rental car bill as he was turning in the car that night. Long story short, I ended up giving him some money and when I inspected the jackets later they were cheap imitations.
I’m embarrassed, but I will survive. I feel an obligation to get the word out so others are alert if someone approaches them about directions and wants to “reward” them with a jacket in exchange for some help with their car rental bill.