A Washington woman agreed to take $20,000 in exchange for marrying her childhood friend from the Philippines so he could become a U.S. citizen, prosecutors said.
Katherine de Leon Evaristo, 39, of Burien was sentenced to two years of probation on a charge of immigration fraud, according to a Sept. 16 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.
Evaristo also lost her job as an officer at U.S. Customs and Border Protection because of the fake marriage, the release states.
An attorney for Evaristo did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Monday, Sept. 19.
Evaristo was born in the Philippines and visited her family for her brother’s funeral in 2012, prosecutors said in the sentencing memorandum. She became a citizen a few years after moving to the U.S. in 2004.
During this trip, her friend and his family said they would pay her a lump sum of $10,000 and another $10,000 in installments if she married him so he could become a U.S. citizen, prosecutors said.
In 2015, Evaristo and her friend married in San Diego after getting a K-1 fiancé visa, prosecutors said.
Evaristo and the man then confirmed to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2017 that their marriage “was not for the purpose of procuring an immigration benefit” in a joint petition, court documents say.
Evaristo also used her job as a CBP officer to look into a federal law enforcement database to check her husband’s immigration status in 2019, documents say.
This search in a database tipped off the CBP and the immigration agency that Evaristo’s marriage was fake, and her colleagues knew Evaristo was dating another person, prosecutors said.
At this time, the man also submitted an application to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, sentencing documents say.
She then admitted to the fake marriage during a 2021 interview with the immigration agency, prosecutors said.
Evaristo told immigration investigators she needed the money to fuel her shopping addiction and to pay for in vitro fertilization, documents say.
She also said her and her husband were just roommates who lived in separate rooms and split all their bills, prosecutors said.
In addition to two years of probation, Evaristo was also ordered to pay $8,500 in forfeiture.
“Ms. Evaristo offered to help her childhood friend get his U.S. citizenship. Unfortunately, this resulted in Ms. Evaristo’s first criminal conviction,” her attorney said in her sentencing memorandum. “We can be sure, going forward, that Ms. Evaristo will not repeat a mistake like the one that landed her before this court.”
The man she married was not charged.
Burien is 10 miles south of Seattle.