Crooks Ran Bogus US Embassy Visa Scam For 10 Years

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Written By Farid Shojaei

Crooks ran a business selling fake visas from a bogus US embassy in Ghana for more than 10 years.

The US State Department and police raided the building in the back streets of the capital Accra to arrest members of the gang and to seize false documents.

The visas were sold for US$6,000 (£4,700), but the State Department has confirmed no illegal immigrants holding one of the counterfeit documents entered the USA.

Turkish and Ghanaian crime gangs and an immigration lawyer were behind the enterprise.

Local police say that travellers seeking visas probably did not know the enterprise was a scam as they had probably never visited an embassy before and were put at ease when they found white people posing as officials.

Corrupt officials handed over visas

The offices were complete with posters of President Barack Obama, US flags and authentic looking letterheads, forms and papers.

The embassy charade may be just the tip of a bigger problem.

More than 150 passports and visas from 10 countries were seized in the raid and evidence suggests the operation spread to neighbouring Ivory Coast and Togo. A fake Dutch embassy is also under investigation.

The State Department alleges corrupt embassy officials were paid to hand over blank visas.

Among the fakes were identification documents, such as bank statements, education records and birth certificates.

Shuttle bus for customers

The run-down red building flying the Stars and Stripes was not identifiable as an embassy from the outside and did not allow travellers seeking a visa to walk in without appointments.

“It seems the embassy advertised visas for sale to towns and villages outside Accra and that unsuspecting customers were taken to Accra by bus,” said a State Department spokesman.

“The criminals even put them up in a hotel and drove them to the fake embassy and helped them to complete paperwork.”

Although some members of the gang were arrested, police in Ghana and Turkey are still seeking key members and have issued several warrants in both countries.

Although the State Department is sure no one has entered the US on illegal documents produced by the embassy, no records show how many false visas were issued nor who bought them.