The California mother accused of faking her own kidnapping and lying to the FBI about it in 2016 pleaded guilty on Monday to the charges related to the scam , and even admitted she made up the entire story.
Sherri Papini, 39, of Redding, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and lying to a federal officer, and left her motive for the elaborate scheme that set off a massive three-week search unanswered.
She had claimed two ‘Hispanic women’ kidnapped her at gunpoint and abused her, when she was actually hiding out with an ex-boyfriend. Her lie cost law enforcement and the government hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Papini only answered ‘Yes, Your Honor,’ and ‘No, Your Honor’ in response to questions from Senior US District Judge William Shubb.
‘I feel very sad,’ Papini said through tears when Shubb asked her how she was feeling.
Prosecutors reached a deal to recommend a sentence on the lower end of the sentencing range, between eight and 14 months, instead of the maximum 25 years for the two charges.
Papini also agreed to pay restitution topping $300,000, which will cover the cost of the search for her that spanned several states and the following investigation into the ‘two Hispanic women’ who she claimed kidnapped her at gunpoint.
While law enforcement officials were searching for her, Papini was actually hiding out with a former boyfriend nearly 600 miles (966 kilometers) away in Southern California.Three weeks later, he dropped her off along Interstate 5 nearly 150 miles (240 kilometers) from her home.
When found, Papini had bindings on her body and self-inflicted injuries including a swollen nose and a blurred ‘brand’ on her right shoulder. She also had bruises and rashes on many other parts of her body, ligature marks on her wrists and ankles and burns on her left forearm.
The married mother of two lied about the kidnapping until as recently as August 2020.
She has offered to explanation as to why she faked the kidnapping, and her attorney, William Portnova, has suggested she probably doesn’t know why she did it.
Papini agreed to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors reached last week and is scheduled to be sentenced July 11.
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