December 11, 2023

Immigration Marriage

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Former Customs and Border Protection officer sentenced for role in sham marriage immigration scheme | USAO-WDWA

Seattle – A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle for immigration fraud, announced U.S. attorney Nick Brown.  Burien resident Katherine De Leon Evaristo, 39, agreed to a sham marriage with a childhood acquaintance from the Philippines.  She was to be paid $20,000 for the sham marriage so that the acquaintance could immigrate to the United States and obtain U.S. Citizenship.  Evaristo later obtained a job at the Office of Field Operations for CBP and used her position there to make an inquiry into her husband’s immigration status.  At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones imposed a sentence of two years of probation saying Evaristo abused her position of trust to obtain benefits for her sham spouse and herself.  Judge Jones noted that she had lost her career in public service and was unlikely to reoffend.”

According to records filed in the case, in late 2012, Evaristo was approached by a cousin about a sham marriage after she attended her brother’s funeral in the Philippines. She agreed to the sham marriage in exchange for $20,000 with half paid at the start of the scheme and the other half when the fake spouse obtained citizenship.   Evaristo applied for a fiancé visa for the fake spouse, he traveled to the U.S. in 2015, and the couple was “married” in San Diego.  In 2017, the couple applied for citizenship for the “spouse,” and in 2019, again lied in their interview about the sham marriage to try to obtain citizenship. 

The investigation began when Evaristo improperly used her access to a federal law enforcement database to check on the immigration status of her sham husband.  CBP officers looking into the improper access knew Evaristo was dating another person and so began to unravel the sham marriage scheme.  When Evaristo was interviewed in 2021, she admitted the scheme.

Evaristo was indicted in September 2021.  She pleaded guilty in May 2022.

In recommending a probationary sentence, prosecutors noted that Evaristo is the single parent of infant twins. “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. These consequences along with the restricted liberty of probation reflect the seriousness of the crime and are likely to deter any future criminal conduct,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

“As evidenced by the outcome of this investigation, CBP OPR and our partners are committed to identifying and mitigating threats,” said Office of Professional Responsibility Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Paul Crawford, Seattle, Washington.

The case was investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility (CBP-OPR), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fraud Detection National Security Unit, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sok Jiang and Lauren Watts Staniar.