According to a press statement from the Department of Justice, on Monday, Sherri Papini, a mother from California, was sentenced to a year and a half in jail for staging her own kidnapping in 2016. The ruse was uncovered thanks to advancements in DNA testing.
After Papini, now 40, admitted to the hoax and pleaded guilty to mail fraud and making false statements in April, Judge William B. Shubb sentenced her to 18 months in prison followed by 36 months of supervised release. Nearly $311,000 in restitution was also added to her sentence.
The judge imposed a sentence that was significantly longer than what the defense had asked for. Prosecutors asked for a sentence of eight months in prison, but defense attorneys requested only one month in jail time and seven months of home detention.
In a statement read aloud to the judge, Papini argued that: “I really regret the pain I’ve caused to so many. My family and friends, who gave so much for the damaged woman I once was. Those that helped me out when I really needed it and provided without expecting anything in return. I appreciate it.”
She admitted to lying and dishonor before the judge and said she was prepared to “repent and to concede.”
The allegations stem from when Papini went missing in November 2016 while out for a jog in Shasta County, which is located in Northern California. The next time anyone saw her was three weeks later, when she was discovered hurt and alone on a highway some 140 miles distant. She informed authorities that two masked, Spanish-speaking women kidnapped her, placed a revolver to her head, and branded her with a hot tool before releasing her.
The charges prompted a multiyear manhunt that turned up no trace of the alleged Hispanic kidnappers. She also earned almost $30,000 in victim compensation money from the state.
Nonetheless, in 2020, authorities were able to link DNA from her clothing to an ex-boyfriend, who ultimately confessed that the whole kidnapping narrative was a fraud.
Federal prosecutors stated in a sentencing letter that the fake was a waste of resources and led officers to investigate innocent individuals.
Prosecutors wrote in their motion, “Papini devised and executed a sophisticated kidnapping hoax, and then continued to perpetuate her false assertions for years after her return without concern for the harm she caused others.” So, “for over four years, state and federal detectives spent scarce resources to Papini’s case” before “they independently learned the truth: that she was not kidnapped and tortured.”
Innocent people were made the focus of a criminal inquiry because of Papini, the prosecutors said. The populace was left in dread of her apparently Hispanic kidnappers, who she allegedly released into the wild.
Papini’s counsel wrote in her sentencing memo that her client has admitted to the fraud and that her reputation has been damaged enough.
“Those long years of denial on Sherri’s part are finally ended. Her identity is now inextricably linked to this horrible lie. We can’t ignore it any longer “As stated in the filing by attorney William Portanova.
“There could hardly be a more shocking public exposure of a person’s damaged psyche. As severe as the punishment is now, it is not yet a life sentence “the man said.
After Monday’s court appearance, Portanova tried to differentiate the modern-day Papini from the perpetrator.
A different Sherri Papini existed before whatever happened in the past five years, he added.
An affidavit indicates that Papini’s ex-boyfriend told investigators he helped her “ran away” from an abusive relationship by providing shelter at his Southern California home. According to the affidavit, he claimed that she had harmed herself, cut off her own hair, and begged him to brand her with a wood-burning equipment.
Investigators were able to verify the ex-story boyfriend’s through multiple lines of evidence, including phone records, the ex’s work schedule, rental car receipts, odometer data, toll records, and an interview with the ex’s cousin, who had seen Papini in the house.