A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer was sentenced to two years of probation in Seattle on Sept. 16 for helping to arrange a sham marriage for a friend so he could obtain U.S. citizenship, according to officials.
Katherine De Leon Evaristo, a 39-year-old Burien resident, agreed to a fake marriage with an acquaintance from the Philippines and was paid $20,000 so her “husband” could immigrate to the United States and obtain citizenship, according to court documents.
Evaristo, who worked at the law enforcement agency’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) component, used her position for personal gain so she could make an inquiry into her fake husband’s immigration status.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones imposed Evaristo’s sentence, saying she “abused her position of trust” to make a profit.
In addition, the judge noted that Evaristo won’t be able to continue her career in public service and ordered her to pay $8,500—the portion of the $20,000 she had already been paid—under the plea deal she struck with prosecutors, The Washington Times reported.
In late 2012, Evaristo was approached by a cousin about the fake marriage after she attended her brother’s funeral in the Philippines, according to records filed in the case. She agreed to the scheme and planned that she would obtain half of the $20,000 at the start of the fake marriage, and the other half when her fake spouse gained U.S. citizenship.
Evaristo applied for a fiancé visa, and her fake spouse traveled to the United States in 2015. The two were “married” in San Diego and applied for her fake husband’s citizenship in 2017 and 2019, documents show.
Authorities launched an investigation when Evaristo used her access to a federal law enforcement database to check on the immigration status of her “husband.” Prosecutors said this unraveled the sham marriage scheme, since her CBP colleagues knew she was dating someone else at the time.
When Evaristo was interviewed again in 2021 to apply for her fake husband’s citizenship, she admitted the scheme. She was indicted in September 2021 and pleaded guilty in May.
Under sentencing guidelines, she should have received a 10-month prison sentence, but prosecutors and the defense urged the judge to give her probation instead.
“Evaristo has experienced significant consequences of her crime that go beyond a custodial sentence: She lost her job at CBP—a job she spent years securing and that afforded her a comfortable income—and now works a lower-wage warehouse job,” prosecutors said.
“These consequences along with the restricted liberty of probation reflect the seriousness of the crime and are likely to deter any future criminal conduct,” they added.