A Northern California woman has pleaded guilty to faking her own kidnapping several years ago. Sherri Papini, 39, admitted guilt on Monday to a count each of making false statements, and mail fraud, online records show.
The wife and mother of two disappeared for three weeks in November 2016—only to return home badly injured. Panini reportedly weighed only 87 pounds.
Federal authorities said in Papini’s plea agreement, however, that she reached out to an ex-boyfriend as early as December 2015 and eventually told him of her plan to flee home and family in Redding, California. Though she had a personal cell phone, she communicated with her ex both through a work phone and prepaid phones, authorities said. Papini told the man to buy prepaid phones, too.
On Nov. 2, 2016, Papini left home in running clothes, with her personal and prepaid phones, and stepped into the ex’s car, according to the plea agreement. He drove her to his home in Costa Mesa, California. Papini stayed there for three weeks, in which she took steps to make it seem like she had been physically abused. Meanwhile, she stayed inside the home and told her ex to keep her presence there a secret.
The ex-boyfriend finally dropped Papini off on Interstate 5 in the area of Woodland, California. Speaking through her husband, Papini, who is white, presented herself as the survivor of horrific abuse at the hands of two Hispanic women.
“When interviewed by law enforcement, PAPINI stated falsely that two Hispanic women had abducted her at gunpoint,” the plea agreement stated. “PAPINI repeated her false claims that she had been abducted by two Hispanic women and provided additional details of her supposed kidnapping during additional interviews and communications with law enforcement officers that occurred between November 2016 and August 2020. These communications included multiple conversations with a Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) sketch artist to create FBI ‘Wanted’ posters based on PAPINI’s descriptions of the two Hispanic women she claimed abducted her.”
Authorities said they confronted Papini with the truth in an Aug. 13, 2020 interview. They had evidence that she stayed with her ex-boyfriend voluntarily.
Under the terms of the previously reported plea agreement, Papini agreed to pay at least a total of $309,686.33 to The California Victims Compensation Board, United States Social Security Administration, Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Though the court can hand down a higher sentence, prosecutors will recommend a “low” sentence under the guidelines.
“I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behavior and so sorry for the pain I’ve caused my family, my friends, all the good people who needlessly suffered because of my story and those who worked so hard to try to help me,” Papini has said in a statement released through her attorney to CNN and the Sacramento Bee. “I will work the rest of my life to make amends for what I have done.”
Papini’s sentencing is set for July 11.
Aaron Keller contributed to this report.
[Screenshot via ABC]
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