Woman Who Faked Her Own Kidnapping Gets Shocking Sentence

By Bill Galluccio

September 19, 2022

Sherri Papini
Photo: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office

A federal judge handed down a harsh sentence to Sherri Papini, a 40-year-old California woman who faked her own kidnapping in 2016. U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb sentenced Papini to 18 months in prison, more than double what prosecutors had recommended.

Papini disappeared while jogging on November 2, 2016. Three weeks later, on Thanksgiving Day, she resurfaced on a highway about 145 miles away with multiple injuries.

Papini told authorities that she had been abducted at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, claiming that they tortured and branded her. As her story made national news, she received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a GoFundMe page and by claiming Social Security disability benefits. She also received about $30,000 in assistance from the California Victim Compensation Board.

After four years, officials realized her entire story was a hoax.

Papini's story began to fall apart in 2020 when investigators tested unknown DNA on her clothing. They were surprised to find male DNA and were able to link it to her ex-boyfriend.

He told detectives that Papini had been staying with him the entire time she was missing. He said that some of her injuries were self-inflicted. However, he admitted to branding her when she asked him to and also said he shot hockey pucks at her.

In April, Papini pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in mail fraud and making false statements. While prosecutors requested a reduced sentence of eight months in prison, Judge Shubb felt that was not sufficient, saying that if Papini had not been caught, she would still be profiting off her elaborate hoax.

In addition, Papini was ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution and serve three years of supervised probation when she is released from prison.

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