Lifestyle & Human Interest

Woman Charged After Allegedly Faking Kidnapping to Get Away with Secret Affair


Six years ago, many were intrigued and concerned over the case of Sherri Papini, a mother of two who disappeared on Nov. 2, 2016, from Shasta County, California, and did not reappear until three weeks later on Thanksgiving Day.

Her husband, Keith Papini, reported her missing after she failed to pick up their kids from day care. He said he found her cellphone and headphones along the path she normally jogged in the morning.

Keith Papini passed a polygraph test, according to the Los Angeles Times, and he started a GoFundMe after her disappearance that raised almost $50,000.

Sherri Papini, hailed online as a “super mom,” was found bound on the side of a freeway in Yolo County. She was 87 pounds and injured, suffering from burns, bruises and a broken nose, and she told a terrifying tale of kidnapping and abuse.

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Over the years and dozens of payments from the California Victim Compensation Board, she collected around $30,000 to pay for therapy and other restitution.

Many women in the area feared for their safety after Papini’s disappearance. For years, she held to her story, saying that her captors spoke Spanish and were Latina women.

In 2020, authorities began to question her account, and concerning accounts from people in her past began to surface in which she was described as an attention-seeker and liar.

During an interview in August of that year, a federal agent and a Shasta County Sheriff’s Office detective showed her evidence they’d found against her case and warned her about lying, but she stuck to her story.

On Thursday, years after the alleged kidnapping, Sherri Papini was arrested.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of California said in a news release that she was charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud.

An ex-boyfriend from Southern California came forward and said Papini had been staying with him during her “kidnapping” and caused her own wounds, telling him a story about her husband, the Times reported.

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“Papini told him that her husband was beating and raping her and she was trying to escape,” the criminal complaint said.

“In truth, Papini had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said.

Shasta County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson posted on Facebook on Thursday to announce the arrest and the progress made in the case.

“Today is a great day for the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, and for all law enforcement in this county,” Johnson wrote. “Sherri Papini cost public safety (conservatively) in excess of $150,000 dollars in resources to investigate her knowingly false claims and staged abduction.

“Not only did this charade take valuable resources away from real criminal investigative matters, but in a time where there is serious human trafficking cases with legitimate victims Sherri Papini used this tragic societal phenomenon to gain notoriety and financial gain.

“Finally, all of law enforcement in Shasta county was put on a national stage and subjected to scrutiny and criticism for the handling this case. It has been a long time coming and we are grateful that our federal partners for diligently pursuing justice.”

Papini faces fines of $250,000 for each of the two charges and could face up to 25 years in prison.

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