Sherri Papini: The California woman who faked her kidnapping will be sentenced Monday


Sherri Papini, 40, pleaded guilty in April to two counts of mail fraud and making false statements. elaborate false kidnapping and receiving more than $30,000 in victim compensation.

Federal prosecutors asked a judge to sentence him to eight months in prison and three years of supervised release, saying the fraud wasted resources and harmed others, according to a sentencing notice filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Papini planned and executed a sophisticated kidnapping scam, then continued to perpetuate his false statements in the years following his return, regardless of the harm he caused to others,” prosecutors said in the filing. “As a result, state and federal investigators devoted limited resources to Papini’s case for nearly four years before they independently learned the truth: that he had not been kidnapped and tortured.”

Papini’s attorney asked for a one-month prison sentence and seven months of house arrest, noting that Papini admitted to the fraud, according to a statement filed Wednesday.

“Sherri’s years of denial are now undeniably over. Her name is now synonymous with this egregious fraud. There is no escaping it,” attorney William Portanova wrote in the filing.

“It’s hard to imagine a more brutal public revelation of a person’s broken inner self. At this point, the punishment is already intense and feels like a lifetime sentence,” he added.

William Shubb will appear before a judge Monday at 9 a.m. PT.

The charges date back to November 2016, when Papini was reported missing after going for a run near her home in Shasta County, Northern California. Three weeks later, he was found injured and alone on a highway about 140 kilometers away. She told police she was kidnapped and tortured by two Spanish-speaking masked women, who chained her to a closet, held her at gunpoint and branded her with a hot tool.

The charges came up empty for several years, leading authorities to conduct a wide-ranging manhunt for the alleged Hispanic kidnappers.

“Papini caused innocent individuals to become the target of a criminal investigation,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing notice. “It left the public in fear of the alleged Hispanic captors who were supposedly on the loose.”

How new DNA technology helped solve the case

There was a breakthrough in 2020 when researchers took unknown male DNA from the clothes he was wearing and tested it using a technology called genetic genealogy. The DNA was linked to a family member of Papini’s ex-boyfriend, and investigators took DNA from the ex-boyfriend to confirm he was the partner at the time, according to the 55-page affidavit released earlier this year.

In an interview with investigators, the ex-boyfriend admitted to helping Papini “escape” what he described as an abusive relationship and placing her at his home in Southern California, the affidavit states. He said he injured himself, cut his hair and asked to be branded with a wood burning tool as part of the ruse, the affidavit states.

Investigators corroborated the ex-boyfriend’s account in many ways, including phone records, her work schedule, car rental receipts, odometers, toll records and an interview with the cousin who saw Papini at the house.

Authorities confronted Papini with the new information and warned him that lying to authorities is a crime. However, she stuck to her original story about the two Hispanic female kidnappers and denied seeing the ex-boyfriend, the affidavit states.

Authorities announced the charges in March 2022 and he pleaded guilty a month later as part of a plea deal. Her husband also filed for divorce and custody of their two children, saying she was “not acting rationally,” court records say.

In court in April, Papini said he had been dealing with anxiety, depression and PTSD since 2016 and also struggled in middle school.

“I am ashamed of my behavior and I feel sorry for my family, my friends, all the good people who suffered needlessly because of my story and who worked so hard to try to help me.” Papini said in his statement. “I’ll spend the rest of my life fixing what I’ve worked for.”