ICE set up a fake university. Hundreds enrolled, not realizing it was a sting operation.

On its website, the University of Farmington advertised an innovative STEM curriculum that would prepare students to compete in the global economy, and flexible class schedules that would allow them to enroll without disrupting their careers. The Michigan-based school touted the number of languages spoken by its president (four) and the number of classes taught by teaching assistants (zero.) Photos of the campus showed students lounging around with books on a grassy quad or engaged in rapt conversation in its brightly lit modern library. Tuition was relatively reasonable — $8,500 a year for undergraduates and $11,000 a year for graduate students.

“Located in the heart of the automotive and advanced manufacturing center of Southeast Michigan, the University of Farmington provides students from throughout the world a unique educational experience,” the site informed prospective applicants.

But there were no classes taking place at the university, which employed no instructors or professors. In court filings that were unsealed Wednesday, federal prosecutors revealed that the school was being run by undercover agents working for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The fake university had been set up in 2015 as part of an elaborate sting operation aimed at ensnaring foreign nationals who had initially come to the United States on student visas. Its “campus” consisted of a small office in a corporate park in the northwestern Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, Mich., with no quad or library in sight.

The phony university was “being used by foreign citizens as a ‘pay to play’ scheme,” prosecutors allege. After forking over thousands of dollars, students would provide immigration authorities with evidence that they were enrolled in a full-time educational program. They could then continue to live and work in the United States under a student visa. But since the University of Farmington didn’t exist, they didn’t have the hassle of writing papers, taking tests or showing up to class.

Students knew that the scheme was illegal “and that discretion should be used when discussing the program with others,” prosecutors wrote in their indictment, which was filed Jan. 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

According to the Detroit News, which first reported on the undercover operation, dozens of University of Farmington students were arrested on immigration violations on Wednesday as part of a massive nationwide sweep and are now potentially facing deportation. In addition, eight people who allegedly worked as “recruiters” for the school and collectively helped at least 600 students to remain in the country under false pretenses now face federal conspiracy charges.

ICE could not be reached for comment late Wednesday night. It’s unclear how many past or present students could be facing deportation as a result of the sting.

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