Sherri Papini charged over fake kidnapping during secret affair with former boyfriend after concocting abduction when she suddenly re surfaced 3 weeks after abrupt disappearance.
A California mother whose purported disappearance led to world headlines during a frantic surge for the missing woman in 2016 and sudden re-appearance three weeks later, is now facing charges after investigators determined the woman had fabricated her alleged kidnapping.
Sherri Papini, who had been reported missing Nov. 2 was found on Thanksgiving Day that year ‘bound with restraints’ and injuries — including a broken nose and a brand on the shoulder — on the side of a road.
The now-39-year-old Redding woman told investigators she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, even providing descriptions to an FBI sketch artist along with a detailed account of her purported abduction.
But authorities now say Papini, a self described ‘super-mom’ of two young daughters had made the whole thing up.
‘In truth, Papini had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements,’ the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California said in a release.
A community filled with terror
The woman went so far as to self harm herself in a bid to portray a fabricated story she had been abducted, beaten – when in reality she had willingly left the family home to spend time with a former boyfriend.
On Thursday, Pappini was arrested on charges of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud, officials said.
The alleged fraudster could be sentenced to up to 20 years jail if convicted of mail fraud and up to five years if convicted of lying to the feds.
Papini also faces fines of $250,000 for each charge.
‘When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,’ US Attorney Phillip Talbert said in a statement.
‘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,’ he added.
Papini was still lying about the abduction in August 2020 when she was interviewed by a federal agent and a local detective, according to the charges.
Supermom continued to stand by her lies
Authorities showed her evidence indicating she had not been kidnapped and warned her that it was a crime to lie to a federal agent — but she continued to provide false statements, the charges allege.
The woman also had been reimbursed more than $30,000 — in about 35 payments — by the California Victim Compensation Board based on her false story, officials said.
The compensation included money for visits to her therapist for ‘treatment for anxiety and PTSD,’ according to a court filing, and for the ambulance ride to a hospital after she emerged.
‘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,’ Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson said.
That exhaustive search and five-year probe not only cost money and time, he said, ‘but caused the general public to be fearful of their own safety, a fear that they should not have had to endure.’
Before she vanished, Papini had gone jogging near her home about 215 miles north of San Francisco.
Her husband, Keith Papini, who passed a lie detector test, found only her cellphone and earphones when he went searching after she never showed up to pick up their kids at daycare.
On the day of her recovery, some three weeks after first going missing, Papini was found by a side of a road close some 150 miles from the family home with a swollen nose along with other lacerations along her body. The woman was wearing a chain around her waist and one arm along with other bindings around her other wrist and each ankle.
During questioning, Papini continued to maintain she had been kidnapped by ‘Hispanic’ women.
Male DNA she had on her body and clothing eventually led to a former boyfriend in 2020, according to a court filing.
He told investigators that Papini stayed with him during the time she was gone, and said she had asked him to come to Redding to pick her up, though he said they never had sex.
The ex-boyfriend said Papini had told him that her husband was abusive and that local police were not investigating the incidents, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing the complaint.
‘Papini told him that her husband was beating and raping her and she was trying to escape,’ the complaint states.
The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office did not have any domestic violence reports filed by Papini, according to the filing.
The ex told investigators that Papini cut her own hair and beat herself to create bruises and burned herself, according to the LA Times.
‘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 said, according to the paper.
He also reportedly took part in branding the woman using a wood-burning tool.
A cousin of the former boyfriend told authorities that he saw Papini in the man’s apartment twice — both times unrestrained. Records later backed the ex-boyfriend’s account that he drove Papini back to Northern California in a rented car.