The U.S. State Department says its immigrant visa lottery program in Ukraine has been overrun by organized fraud rings.
A report by the State Department's Office of the Inspector-General says the fraud rings, based in western Ukraine, illegally entered the names and data of thousands of people into the online visa program.
Ukrainians selected by the lottery were later contacted by the fraudsters, who demanded up to $15,000 for confirmation numbers needed to pursue the immigrant visa application.
Those who could not afford to pay such fees were forced to enter sham marriages with others who wanted to immigrate to the United States and who had enough money to pay the fraud ring.
The fraudsters later took control of the new immigrants' U.S. Social Security numbers for further exploitation.
No arrests have yet been made.
Based on reporting by voanews.com and oig.state.gov