Sherri Papini’s case grabbed national attention when she went missing for several weeks, prompting a frantic search and widespread media coverage. She eventually reappeared with an elaborate story of being abducted by two “Hispanic women”, chained to a pole for three weeks, beaten and branded before being released by the side of a highway.
Now, six years later, she is being arrested for making up the whole story and lying to authorities about her alleged kidnapping.
Sherri Papini, 40, pleaded guilty last spring to staging the abduction and lying to the FBI about it. As part of a plea bargain, she is required to pay more than $300,000 in restitution.
Probation officers and Papini’s attorney had recommended that she spend a month in custody and seven months in supervised home detention, while prosecutors wanted her to serve eight months behind bars. But Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb said he opted for an 18-month sentence in order to deter others.
Papini wept as she addressed the court for about five minutes.
“I stand before you humbled by the court. I’m so sorry to the many people who have suffered because of me. I thank you all,” she said. “What was done cannot be undone. I am choosing to humbly accept all responsibility.”
After vanishing in November 2016, Papini turned up three weeks later, on Thanksgiving morning, saying she had been kidnapped, tortured, and had injuries including a brand on her right shoulder.
Police collected DNA samples from Papini’s clothes when she was found in 2016. However, they never found any matches in their database. However, in 2020 they got a match. The DNA belonged to a boyfriend’s father, whose DNA was on record in the official database.
When they traced the DNA to Papini’s ex-boyfriend, he confessed everything and told authorities that the entire kidnapping was a big hoax.
“In truth, Papini had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements,” an announcement by the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California said in a release on Thursday night.
Both defense and prosecuting attorneys said Papini would not appeal the sentence.
It was not until last March, when the FBI arrested Papini, that she admitted to faking her kidnapping and self-inflicting the injuries. She later admitted being voluntarily in Costa Mesa, California, with an ex-boyfriend the entire time.
In his sentencing recommendation filed last week, Papini’s defense attorney, William Portanova, had urged the court to follow recommendations from the U.S. Probation Office and impose an eight-month sentence, seven months of “intensely supervised” home detention, and just one month in custody.
The lesser sentence would address Papini’s crimes, provide a “reasonable deterrent” and deliver justice “in this unique case,” Portanova wrote.
Watch the video report below for more details: