In Ghana, a fake U.S. embassy reportedly was run by a criminal network for a decade, issuing illegally obtained visas, until it was shut down by authorities in the country earlier this year.
The fake embassy, run out of the Ghanaian capital of Accra, had falsely obtained real U.S. visas and false identification documents, including birth certificates for about $6,000 each, Reuters reported.
The "embassy" was run out of an old, pink two-floor building with a U.S. flag flying outside and a portrait of President Barack Obama hanging inside, Reuters noted.
"This embassy was a sham," said a statement from the U.S. State Department in November. "It was not operated by the United States government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law. The 'consular officers' were Turkish citizens who spoke English and Dutch.
"For about a decade it operated unhindered; the criminals running the operation were able to pay off corrupt officials to look the other way, as well as obtain legitimate blank documents to be doctored," the statement said.
The assistant regional security officer investigator at the legitimate U.S. Embassy in Accra, with help from the Ghana Police Force, Ghana Detectives Bureau, and other international authorities, shut down the facility this summer.
During a raid of the facility, authorities arrested several suspects and took evidence, including a laptop computer; smartphones; 150 passports from 10 countries; and legitimate and counterfeit visas from the U.S., Ghana Business News reported.
The state department statement said the investigation was part of the larger "Operation Spartan Vanguard" initiative, developed by diplomatic security agents in the regional security office at U.S. Embassy Ghana to address trafficking and fraud.
"During the course of another fraud investigation in Operation Spartan Vanguard, an informant tipped off the (investigator) about the fake U.S. embassy, as well as a fake Netherlands embassy operating in Accra," noted the state department.
"After receiving the tip, the ARSO-I, who is the point person in the (regional security office) shop for Operation Spartan Vanguard investigations, verified the information with partners within the Ghanaian Police Force," the statement continued.
The state department said the fake embassy advertised its services through flyers and billboards to attract locals and those from other countries.
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