A 39-year-old woman whose supposed kidnapping set off massive searches around California and other states now faces federal charges for allegedly lying to officials about her abduction.
On Thursday, March 3, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California said in a statement Sherri Papini was arrested and charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud.
According to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, Papini was reported missing on Nov. 2, 2016, after her husband came home and saw neither she nor their children were at home. He reportedly found out his children were still at day care and used the Find My iPhone app to locate his wife’s cellphone near the intersection of Sunrise Drive and Old Oregon Trail. She was found a little over three weeks later, on Nov. 26, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office probable cause affidavit says Papini was found on Interstate 5 in Yolo County with “a chain around her waist that one arm was bound to, with additional bindings around her other wrist and each ankle.” She had reportedly lost a lot of weight, had her hair cut short, and was branded on her right shoulder.
When speaking with agents, Papini described being kidnapped by two Hispanic women and shared vivid details about their appearances. Throughout the investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says agents came to the conclusion “that this was a false narrative Papini fabricated.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges Papini “had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements.”
Papini reportedly had the California Victim’s Compensation Board pay her over $30,000, which included costs for therapy and transportation via ambulance.
Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson said in the statement, “Everyone involved in this investigation had one common goal; to find the truth about what happened on Nov. 2, 2016 with Sherri Papini and who was responsible. 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.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, if convicted, Papini could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 maximum fine for the charge of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer. She could also face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for mail fraud.