Jan. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. immigration officials arrested several people and charged them in federal court this week, after authorities created a phony college in Michigan in an elaborate setup to draw them out.
The bogus college was called the University of Farmington. On its website, it says the campus began in the 1950s to help returning soldiers from World War II obtain degrees. The goal, the Department of Homeland Security said, was to attract foreign students attempting to stay in the United States without proper authorization.
Officials said eight foreign students were indicted by a grand jury Monday on suspicion of visa fraud and "harboring aliens for profit." The charges were unsealed Wednesday.
Prosecutors say those indicted helped at least 600 foreign citizens "illegally remain, re-enter and work in the United States." They are also accused of recruiting them to enroll at school as part of a "pay to stay" scheme.
Those indicted were named as Barath Kakireddy, 29; Suresh Kandala, 31; Phanideep Karnati, 35; Prem Rampeesa, 26; Santosh Sama, 28; Avinash Thakkallapally, 28; Aswanth Nune, 26; and Naveen Prathipati, 26.
Federal agents also arrested dozens of University of Farmington "students" across the country on immigration violations, according U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They all now face deportation.
ICE's Homeland Security Investigations arm created the phony school in 2015 as part of the operation.
"We are all aware that international students can be a valuable asset to our country, but as this case shows, the well-intended international student visa program can also be exploited and abused," Matthew Schneider, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said, in a statement.
The federal government's elaborate sting included university offices that operated out of the basement, with agents posing as staff, and a Facebook page.