A fake U.S. embassy in Ghana has finally been shut down after a decade of providing fraudulent and illicit services, according to the Department of State.
An organized crime gang consisting of Turkish and Ghanaian citizens ran the fake embassy out of Accra. They flew the American flag outside the “embassy” every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday and issued illegally-obtained, legitimate American visas, counterfeit visas, and false identification documents (including bank records, education records, and birth certificates) for the price of $6,000.
The fake embassy even featured a portrait of President Barack Obama.
By paying off corrupt officials, the criminals were able to carry on their operations unhindered. Customers included citizens of Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo.
They did not accept walk-ins; rather, they brought in customers from remote parts of Africa. The fake embassy advertised using flyers and billboards.
The assistant regional security officer investigator (ARSO-I) at the actual U.S. Embassy in Accra joined forces with the Ghana Police Force, Ghana Detectives Bureau, and other international partners this past summer to close down the fake embassy.
The investigation began after an informant affiliated with the broader “Operation Spartan Vanguard” initiative tipped off the ARSO-I.
“Operation Spartan Vanguard” was developed by Diplomatic Security agents in the Regional Security Office (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana to take on trafficking and fraud operations negatively impacting the embassy and the region.
Investigators managed to uncover the main architects of the scam, as well as two satellite locations (a dress shop and an apartment building).
During the raids, several suspects were arrested. Authorities also discovered 150 passports from 10 different countries, tons of legitimate and counterfeit visas to the U.S., the Schengen zone, India, and South Africa, and fraudulent identification documents. They also seized a number of laptops and smartphones.
Several suspects still remain at large; however, the task force is working with Interpol and the Bureau of Consular Affairs to track them down.
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