One by one, all ten admitted they had used false identities and pleaded guilty to being agents of the Russian government.
Some even smiled and gave thumbs -up in court, once it was clear they would escape prison time and hefty fines.
Then judge signed off on an agreement that forced the spies to leave the U.S. immediately.
The attorney for suspect Anna Chapman insisted his client is not a spy.
"My client is admitting to a very limited thing,” said Robert Baum, Chapman’s defense attorney. “She admitted she failed to register as an agent of the federal government." "None of the people involved were providing any information to my understanding that could not readily be obtained on the internet."
All ten were taken to the airport for flights to Moscow.
It’s part of a two step deal that will send four people in custody in Russia back here. Among them, convicted spy Igor Sutyagin, who passed nuclear secrets to the U.S.
U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in an exclusive interview for CBS' face the nation, told Bob Schiffer this is a good deal for both sides.
"We essentially orchestrated a swap so that we had access to or got back four people who had been charged in Russia with conducting intelligence activities on behalf of western countries."
Federal authorities say the Russians had not revealed anything of particular significance - and had not damaged national security. Still, it was an embarrassing episode between two of the world's superpowers.
One U.S. official says this case should send a strong message to any adversary that America is onto them.