First Responders

Ex-Officer Convicted for Immigration Sham Marriage Scam

September 19, 2022Carl Prine
Katherine De Leon Evaristo, 39 an, ex-US Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations officer, was sentenced Sept. 16, 2022, in US District Court in Seattle for immigration fraud. US Customs and Border Protection photo.

Katherine De Leon Evaristo, 39 an, ex-US Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations officer, was sentenced Sept. 16, 2022, in US District Court in Seattle for immigration fraud. US Customs and Border Protection photo.

While serving as a Customs and Border Protection officer responsible for enforcing federal immigration laws, Katherine de Leon Evaristo posed as a wife in a sham marriage to help a Filipino man score a green card.

On Friday, Sept. 16, in Seattle, US District Judge Richard A. Jones sentenced the 39-year-old woman to two years of probation for conspiring to commit immigration fraud. He also ordered her to forfeit $8,500 in proceeds from bribes she received for the bogus marriage and directed her to receive therapy for her diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.

A Burien resident originally from the Philippines, Evaristo had faced up to five years behind bars and a $250,000 fine, but a plea deal she inked with federal prosecutors on May 6 capped her sentence at only two years of supervised probation.

Authorities also tossed out a charge for providing false information on an immigration form.

In a prepared statement released in the wake of her sentencing, Paul Crawford, the special agent in charge of Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility in Seattle, said Evaristo’s conviction showed the government’s commitment “to identifying and mitigating threats.” 

US Customs

The largest component of Customs and Border Protection, the Office of Field Operations handles customs duties at 20 offices, 328 ports of entry, and 16 pre-clearance stations overseas. Its ranks include more than 22,000 federal law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists. Customs and Border Protection photo.

Neither Evaristo nor her attorney responded to Coffee or Die Magazine’s requests for comment.

Court records reveal she’s already paid $1,000 of her fine, despite filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 9 with $78,407 in debt, mostly tied to credit card and online shopping bills. Federal filings say a key motive for her taking the bribes stemmed from a shopping addiction.

After a childhood marked with abuse, Evaristo migrated to the US in 2004 and became a model citizen, according to federal filings.

She enlisted in the California Air National Guard and later served as a law enforcement officer for the Transportation Security Agency, US Border Patrol, and US Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations.

US Customs

The largest component of Customs and Border Protection, the Office of Field Operations handles customs duties at 20 offices, 328 ports of entry, and 16 pre-clearance stations overseas. Its ranks include more than 22,000 federal law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists. Customs and Border Protection photo.

Evaristo’s immigration fraud scheme began in late 2012, shortly after she returned to the Philippines to attend her brother’s funeral. A childhood friend of hers — identified only by the initials “I.M.” in court records — wanted to become a US citizen, and his cousin brokered a deal with Evaristo.

Although the cousin offered 1 million pesos — about $20,000 — it appears Evaristo only received $8,500 for her role in a scheme that would play out over nearly nine years.

I.M. arrived in the US in 2015 on a K-1 fiancé visa, and Evaristo wed him in San Diego weeks later. In 2017, the fake couple filed a petition that promised they didn’t marry to procure an immigration benefit. They continued the lie during a 2019 interview with immigration officials.

And they might’ve gotten away with it, had Evaristo not used her position as a Customs and Border Protection officer to make an unauthorized query in a federal law enforcement database to check on I.M.’s immigration status. 

The largest component of Customs and Border Protection, the Office of Field Operations handles customs duties at 20 offices, 328 ports of entry, and 16 pre-clearance stations overseas. Its ranks include more than 22,000 federal law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists. Customs and Border Protection photo.

That tipped off federal agents that something was wrong about the marriage. Her fellow federal officers told officials that she was dating another man. In mid-2021, she was interviewed by federal agents and confessed quickly to the scheme.

During the interrogation, she admitted that she and I.M. lived as roommates, not spouses. They slept in separate bedrooms and shared the bills and rent. He also had pledged to help fund in vitro fertilization treatments so she could have children.

Now a warehouse worker, Evaristo gave birth to twins in July. Her role as a single mother spurred her defense attorney and federal prosecutors to urge leniency with her criminal sentence. They also pointed to her PTSD and the stigma she felt as an older Filipina woman who wasn’t married in a joint pitch to the judge for mercy.

“Sending Evaristo to jail when she has two infant children at home is unnecessary; a two-year probationary sentence is sufficient to punish Evaristo and deter future criminal activity given the circumstances of her offense and her particular characteristics,” wrote Assistant US Attorney Lauren Watts Staniar in a memorandum to the judge.

The judge agreed.

Read Next: 3 Confess To Assaulting Federal Cop on Crow Indian Reservation

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He previously worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Military
‘Butter Butter Jam!’: Troops Loved, and Hated, the M249 SAW

For nearly 50 years, the SAW has played a major role in America’s wars. Now it’s being replaced by new weapons.

February 8, 2023Mac Caltrider
Coffee Or Die Photo
Military
Space Force Vows ‘Above and Beyond’ Cleanup of Maui Spill

Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, the commander of the U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, said a team will t...

February 8, 2023Associated Press
Coffee Or Die Photo
Military
Navy Releases First Photos of Chinese Balloon Recovery

In the newest images released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who oppose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on religious grounds want a federal appeals court to keep alive their legal fight against the Biden administration. Congress voted to end the requirement in December 2022, but vaccine opponents note that commanders can still make decisions on how and whether to deploy unvaccinated troops, under a memo signed last month by Austin. AP photo by Susan Walsh, File.
Military
Vaccine Litigation Lingers After Lifting of Military Mandate

Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who refuse to be vaccinated for religious...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Armed Forces Service Medal
Military
Who Earns the Armed Forces Service Medal?

The Department of Defense honors heroism in combat in many ways, but there is also an award — the Ar...

February 7, 2023Noelle Wiehe
Soldiers carry the coffin of Eduard Strauss, a Ukrainian serviceman who died in combat on Jan. 17 in Bakhmut, during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. AP photo by Daniel Cole.
Intel
Russian Forces Keep Up Pressue As Ukraine Anniversary Nears

Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region as M...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Chinese spy balloon
Military
Blown to Bits! Chinese Spy Balloon Blasted, Plummets Into Sea

The US Air Force downed the Chinese balloon that's been soaring over the US.

February 4, 2023Carl Prine
germany, european union, ukraine gas reserves
Intel
Ukraine Wants To Store Europe’s Strategic Gas Reserves

Ukraine maintains 12 underground gas storage facilities with a total capacity of about 31 billion cu...

February 3, 2023Nolan Peterson
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved