An organised crime ring operated a “sham” U.S. embassy in Ghana that issued illegally obtained visas for about a decade, the State Department confirmed Sunday.
The building in Accra, Ghana, flew a U.S. flag every Monday, Tuesday and Friday morning. And inside the building was a picture of President Obama and signs suggesting visitors were indeed inside a real U.S. embassy, the agency said.
The purported organisers obtained blank documents to doctor and forge. The fake embassy was staffed by imposter consular officers who were in fact Turkish citizens who spoke English and Dutch.
The operation even advertised its services through fliers and billboards and charged customers as much as $6,000 — with options to buy fake supporting documents such as phony birth certificates and bank records.
The fake embassy remained opened so long because “the criminals running the operation were able to pay off corrupt officials,” according to the State Department.
The report states the elaborate scheme was run by Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney who practices immigration and criminal law.
The State Department reported about the operation Nov. 2 on its website and wrote, “This embassy was a sham.”
Two State Department officials confirmed to FoxNews.com on Sunday that the report was real, amid a proliferation of so-called “fake news.”
However, the officials declined to provide additional information including details about how many bogus passports might have been issued or on how many people from the West African nation could be living illegally in other countries.
They also declined to discuss why news outlets first started reporting the story this weekend, saying more details could be made available Monday.
The operation was broken up this past summer by a team of law enforcement agencies that included the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, Canadian Embassy officials and local police.
The embassy sting by the joint task force uncovered 150 passports from 10 countries as well as real and counterfeit visas from India, and the United States. A fake Netherlands embassy also was discovered in the sting.
The operation also had two satellite locations — an apartment building and a dress shop in which an industrial sewing machine could re-create the binding on fake passports.
The operatives drove to remote parts of the country to find customers, instead of accepting walk-in visa appointments, the agency said.
They next step would be to take customers to a hotel in Accra, then to the fake embassy.
The U.S. maintains an official, fortified embassy in Ghana.
The State Department said several Ghanaian suspects connected to the operation remain at large.