Sherri Papini was arrested on Thursday and charged with making false statements to police and mail fraud after investigators discovered that her 2016 kidnapping was fake. The California mom could face up to 25 years in prison for both charges and over $500,000 if convicted. Police are investigating.
According to reports, Sherri Papini claimed that she was kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women back on Nov. 2, 2016. The California mom gave detailed reports about her kidnapping, including descriptions of the two women. In actuality, Papini was staying with her ex-boyfriend for 22 days while her community launched multiple searches for her.
Papini showed up 150 miles from her home on Thanksgiving Day 2016. She showed up on a rural road in Yolo County near Woodland, Calif. She was restrained, bruised and had a brand on her shoulder.
“Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping and that time and resources that could have been used to investigate actual crime, protect the community, and provide resources to victims were wasted based on the defendant’s conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.
Male DNA, found on Papini’s clothes and skin, was linked back to her former boyfriend in 2020. The Costa Mesa man said that Sherri Papini had asked him to pick her up in Redding, Calif. on the day of her disappearance and had stayed with him during her fake kidnapping.
The former boyfriend also said that Papini hurt herself while at his home, including beating her face, cutting her hair, and burning herself. The California mom told her ex-boyfriend that her husband, Keith Papini, was abusing her, and that was why she was running away. There are no police reports detailing that alleged abuse.
A criminal complaint filed against Sherri Papini in 2020 said, “Papini told him that her husband was beating and raping her, and she was trying to escape. Ex-Boyfriend said he helped her create some of the injuries, although he never laid his hands directly on her; for example, she told him, ‘Bank a puck off my leg,’ so [he] shot a puck off her leg, lightly,” the complaint added, according to The Los Angeles Times.
A cousin of the ex-boyfriend also told investigators that he saw Papini twice during those three weeks and the young mother wasn’t restrained in any way.
In a 2020 interview with Sherri Papini, the California mother still claimed that she had been kidnapped despite evidence showing otherwise.
Following her arrest, Papini’s family released a statement and blamed law enforcement officials for how they handled the arrest. In an email statement to USA Today, they said, “We love Sherri and are appalled by the way in which law enforcement ambushed her this afternoon in a dramatic and unnecessary manner in front of her children. If requested, Sherri would have fully complied and come to the police station, as she has done multiple times before, where this could have been handled in a more appropriate way.”
According to officials, Sherri Papini was given roughly $30,000 from the California Victim Compensation Board since her kidnapping. The money was given to her via 35 payments from 2017 to 2021 and reportedly paid for her therapy visits for “treatment for anxiety and PTSD.”
The money also paid for the ambulance ride that brought her to the hospital after her Thanksgiving Day discovery.
“The 22-day search for Sherri Papini and subsequent five-year search into who reportedly abducted her was not only taxing on public resources but caused the general public to be fearful of their own safety, a fear that they should not have had to endure,” said a recent news release by the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office.
Since investigators unearthed Sherri Papini’s fake kidnapping, California Attorney General Rob Bonta has praised the officers for learning what happened.