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Professional Responsibility

CBP officer, spouse charged with defrauding the US government

TACOMA, Wash. — A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer working in Victoria, B.C., and his wife made their initial appearance in federal court Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government for submitting false claims for reimbursement of their children's educational expenses.

The complaint alleges CBP officer John Eric Weaver and his wife, Joy Weaver, conspired to submit falsified education reimbursement claims inflated by more than $8,000. Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) say that in 2009 and 2010, Joy Weaver created fictitious school invoices where the tuition fees amounted to double the actual cost. John Weaver then submitted the false documents and claim forms to CBP for reimbursement.

The alleged scheme was discovered in June 2010 when a CBP financial program specialist contacted the school to find out if there were other costs that should be reimbursed. The school indicated the invoices supplied by the Weavers to CPB did not reflect the accurate cost of tuition; and that they had not been produced by the school. CBP officials reported the discrepancies, which initiated the internal investigation.

CBP officers, like other federal employees stationed overseas, are eligible for an education allowance for their minor children. Those expenses include basic tuition for required courses and necessary elective courses, books and supplies required by the school, and local transportation on school days between the school and the employee's home.

John Weaver was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon in Port Angeles, Wash., by special agents with ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) when he arrived on a ferry from Victoria. CBP had assigned John Weaver to desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation; however as a result of his arrest, he is now on administrative leave. Joy Weaver was arrested Wednesday.

Conspiracy to file a false claim is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The investigation was led by ICE's OPR, which investigates allegations of misconduct on the part of ICE and CBP employees; and assisted by HSI, CBP's Office of Internal Affairs, and the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington is prosecuting.