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California woman arrested for allegedly lying about 2016 kidnapping, DOJ says

Posted at 11:18 AM, Mar 04, 2022

Authorities in California have arrested a woman who allegedly faked her disappearance in 2016.

According to the Department of Justice, Sherri Papini was arrested Thursday on charges of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud.

"When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert in the news release. “Shasta County Sheriff’s Office immediately began investigating, calling on the assistance of the FBI. Countless hours were spent following leads, all in an effort to bring this woman back to her family. Three weeks later, she was found 146 miles south of where she disappeared, and the focus went from trying to find her to trying to find her abductors. 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 based on the defendant’s conduct.”

On Nov. 2, 2016, Papini was reported missing, and 22 days later, after extensive searches in California and surrounding states, she was found, federal prosecutors said in a press release.

At the time, Papini told law enforcement that she was abducted and held at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, which she described in detail to an FBI sketch artist.

According to the DOJ, when she was found, she "had various bindings on her body and had a “brand” on her right shoulder."

But through their investigation, the DOJ said Papini fabricated the story; instead, she allegedly stayed with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and even harmed herself to support her story.

According to the press release, when investigators presented their evidence to her in August 2020 that showed she had not been abducted, Papini didn't retract her original kidnapping story.

The DOJ said Papini was also paid $30,000 in victim assistance by the California Victim’s Compensation Board in 35 payments from 2017 through 2021 to pay for her to visit her therapist and for the ambulance ride to the hospital after she was initially found.

Papini faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted of making false statements to a federal officer, and up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted of mail fraud.