THOUSANDS of rich women were conned by a firm into believing LAMBS were valuable miniature POODLES.
Entire flocks were imported to Japan from the UK and Australia then sold by the internet company as the latest “must have” pet.
The bizarre scam was rumbled when Japanese movie star Maiko Kawakami complained on a talk show that her new poodle refused to bark or eat dog food.
She showed photos of the animal and was devastated when told that it was a lamb.
Hundreds of women contacted police to say that they had also been sold lambs instead of pedigree pups by the
tricksters based in Sapporo, Japan.
Cops believe that up to 2,000 people across the country had been swindled in the same way. One couple found out the truth only after a dog beautician told them that she could not trim their poodle’s claws — because they were HOOVES.
The company, whose name translated as Poodles As Pets, has now been shut down.
Bosses took advantage of the fact sheep are rare in Japan and most people do not know what they look like.
They advertised poodles online for £630 — half the price of the highly-desired puppies in Japan at £1,260.
A police spokesman said yesterday: “We launched an investigation after we were made aware that a company were selling sheep as poodles.
“Sadly, we think there is more than one company operating in this way.
“The sheep are believed to have been imported from overseas — Britain, Australia.”
Most of the people caught out by the scam are donating the sheep to zoos and farms.