03/26/2013 04:41 EDT | Updated 05/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Watch out for thieves selling fake Osama bin Laden gold, Mounties warn

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Mounties in B.C. are looking for three suspects selling fake "Taliban" gold under the ruse that it was smuggled out of Iraq and previously owned by Osama bin Laden.

Kamloops RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned said officers believe the same three suspects struck twice Friday, first conning a 50-year-old local man who spent $760 on three gold necklaces and four gold rings in a fast-food restaurant parking lot.

"They told him the gold belonged to Osama bin Laden, that it had been melted down and smuggled out of Iraq, and then it had been refashioned into this wonderful jewelry," said Learned.

He said it wasn't until later that the man realized he had been duped when he took the items to an appraiser and learned the chains and rings were worthless.

Learned said the man had been "bamboozled," but there was no criminal aspect to the scam until later in the day when three similar suspects approached a 59-year-old man and his wife in a grocery-store parking lot.

He said the second operation was different than the first because the suspects were very aggressive.

"They were putting necklaces on (the man and his wife) saying 'oh these look lovely,' 'only $200 for you,' 'this is a good buy,' 'you should buy this for your wife,' 'this is a good investment,' all these things to prompt them to buy these necklaces."

The couple made it clear that they did not want to buy the necklaces, he said, but the man later discovered a real gold chain he had been wearing that was worth $500 was replaced with a fake gold chain during the exchange.

His wife discovered a gold chain she had been wearing had fallen and was inside her blouse, in an attempt to replace it with a fake.

The three suspects are wanted for theft and have been described as two men and one woman driving a newer, black Ford Focus with Manitoba plates.

"I suspect, as do the other officers, that the fact that they had Manitoba plates suggests that these are probably travelling criminals that are going to various centres pulling these scams as they go," said Learned.

One man identified himself as from Iraq, and witnesses said all three spoke with an unidentified accent.

Learned said the public should be wary about making purchases from strangers, especially when they are unsure about whether goods are legitimate.

"If there's any question about the legitimacy or that it's a bit of an unusual or perhaps shady circumstance — people selling stuff out of their van in a parking lot — typically, there's something a little off with that."