Thousands of people have been 'fleeced' into buying neatly coiffured lambs they thought were poodles.
Entire flocks of lambs were shipped over from the UK and Australia to Japan by an internet company and marketed as the latest 'must have' accessory.
But the scam was only spotted after a leading Japanese actress said her 'poodle' didn't bark and refused to eat dog food.
Maiko Kawakami, who starred in the Japanese thriller Violent Cop, showed photographs of her pet on a television talk show only to be told it wasn't a dog - but was in fact a lamb.
The discovery prompted hundreds of women to contact the police with similar problems and the authorities believe as many as 2,000 people have been conned.
'We launched an investigation after we were made aware that a company was selling sheep as poodles,' a police spokesman told The Sun.
'Sadly, we think there is more than one company operating in this way.
'The sheep are believed to have been imported from overseas - Britain and Australia.'
Poodles are famously used by the rich and glamourous on the continent but are extremely rare in Japan, with many people having little idea what they look like.
The company, which translates as Poodles as Pets, sold the 'poodles' for £630, about half the cost of a normal poodle but is now understood to have been shut down.