The people smuggler had his routine all figured out: take $11,000 in cash from each migrant worker, then carry them safely across the Russian border into Finland.

There was just one twist: The smuggler was allegedly a con man, his border crossing a fake. He had built it himself, and both sides were in Russian territory, Russian officials said this week.

“The man never planned to carry out his promises,” Interfax, a Russian news agency, wrote in a report this week after the con man and the four men he duped were arrested.

The unidentified man swindled four migrant workers from South Asia last month, taking more than $40,000 from them in exchange for the promise of safe passage into the European Union, according to Russian news reports. Finnish broadcaster YLE reported that he took them on a roundabout route that, at one point, included walking them around a lake as they carried a boat.

The group was detained by real border guards after he brought them through his fake crossing in a forest close to the real Finnish border.

A Russian court in St. Petersburg reportedly fined the four duped men Wednesday and ordered them to be deported. The man who tricked them is facing charges of fraud. Agence France-Presse reported that Russian authorities did not release the men’s identities or countries of origin but said the fake smuggler was from Central Asia.

“The so-called guide decided to simulate an illicit border crossing and make some easy money without actually providing the four with assistance in illegally crossing the Russian border,” Russia’s border security forces said in a statement, according to the state-run Tass news agency. “The fraudster really got into the character for his role, going as far as making and installing fake border posts in a forest.”

Russian and Finnish officials have cracked down on illegal migration across their shared border in recent years, as the route had become a popular path for migrants and asylum seekers hoping to cross into the European Union. The two countries share a border of about 833 miles.

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