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JANESVILLE

Janesville police have asked federal authorities for help investigating an apparent scam that cost LeMans Corp. $325,000, a police official said this week.

The fraud, reported to Janesville police March 17, appears to have taken place over months, Lt. Chad Pearson told The Gazette. He added that police are still trying to figure out how many months.

Pearson said someone pretended to be one of the vendors with whom LeMans was working.

A police report said the company was a victim of “computer internet fraud” and that payments were routed to a specified bank “per the request of what was perceived to be the original sender.”

When asking for help from federal agencies, Pearson said local police have to consider the dollar amount involved and potential connections to “larger criminal syndicates,” perhaps in other countries.

Such investigations might involve subpoenas and warrants, and he said local authorities might need to connect with other jurisdictions, also potentially outside the United States.

LeMans is a distributor of parts and accessories for vehicles such as motorcycles. The company’s brands, Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties, are headquartered in Janesville.

A company official declined to comment on the matter.

For other companies that might fall prey to similar scams, Pearson suggests they ensure they have a way to directly contact a company with whom they do business.

“Relying solely on email communications, or in some cases some form of text communication, is something to be cautious of,” he said. “And if you are, make sure the email addresses and phone numbers are all the ones that you want to be communicating with.”

Emails can be particularly tricky, he said, because one character can be changed—maybe from a lowercase letter to an uppercase one—to make an email address appear legitimate when it is not.

For example, a lowercase “l” looks similar to an uppercase “I.”

In the LeMans case, Pearson said they are still trying to assemble resources to “take the full-picture look at what we’re dealing with.”

Update: This article was updated at 5 p.m. Thursday to provide an example of how letters in emails can look similar.