A border officer was sentenced to two years of probation Friday for taking part in a sham marriage to help a friend from the Philippines immigrate to the U.S. and gain citizenship here.
Katherine De Leon Evaristo, an immigrant herself who went on to work for the Transportation Security Agency and as a Border Patrol agent and Customs and Border Protection officer, was to be paid roughly $20,000 for agreeing to the marriage.
“She worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and as such, was charged with enforcing the very immigration laws she violated,” prosecutors told the judge ahead of sentencing.
Evaristo even used her position with CBP to make an unauthorized check on her fake spouse’s immigration status. Prosecutors said that’s what tipped authorities off to her scam, since her colleagues knew she was dating someone else at the time.
Evaristo begged the judge not to issue prison time, with her lawyer detailing a history of sexual abuse and an abusive earlier marriage before engaging in the fraudulent marriage. The lawyer said she was motivated by the desire to help her friend, who she’d known in childhood and then reconnected with when she went back to the Philippines after her brother’s death.
Prosecutors, though, described her as motivated by money, saying she admitted to needing the $20,000 to fuel a shopping addiction. She also said her fraudulent spouse, identified in court documents only as “I.M.,” agreed to pay for her to undergo in vitro fertilization.
During their supposed marriage they lived in the same home but in separate rooms, acting as roommates and sharing bills.
Under sentencing guidelines she was to have been jailed for four to 10 months, but prosecutors and the defense urged the judge to give her probation instead, citing her history of sexual abuse and the felony charge now on her record, which meant the loss of her job.
The judge agreed to the probation sentence, citing Evaristo’s low likelihood of future criminal behavior.
Evaristo also must pay $8,500 — the portion of the $20,000 she had already been paid — under the plea deal she struck with prosecutors.
Prosecutors also asked the judge to impose special conditions on Evaristo’s future spending, to try to gain control of her shopping addiction.