Sherri Papini

Sherri Papini: California Woman Charged With Lying About 2016 Abduction

A California woman whose disappearance more than five years ago prompted a desperate three-week search was arrested on Thursday and charged with lying to federal agents about being kidnapping and defrauding California’s victim compensation board.

Sherri Papini, 39, was reported missing on November 2, 2016, and found 22 days later just off Interstate 5 near Yolo, as CrimeOnline previously reported. She was emaciated and had cuts and bruises all over her body. She had a “brand” on one shoulder and her hair was cut shorter.

She told investigators that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by a pair of Hispanic women and provided descriptions to a sketch artist. She also provided detailed descriptions of her treatment by the two women.

But federal authorities said she was actually staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa, some 600 miles from her Shasta County home, and all the stories were lies.

“When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said in a statement. “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.”

Papini “harmed herself to support her false statements,” the US Attorney’s Office said. She was also reimbursed $30,000 by the victim compensation board to cover therapy appointments, ambulance rides, and other items.

Federal and Shasta County authorities continued looking into the alleged kidnapping, even as the furor died down. According to the complaint against her, Papini was warned in August 2020 that it was a crime to lie to a federal agent, who showed her evidence that countered her story. She stuck to her story at that time.

The complaint says that Papini’s ex-boyfriend provided information about her stay with him, telling investigators that they communicated with one another with prepaid cell phones for nearly a year before the alleged abduction.

The investigation also uncovered other affairs Papini allegedly had and interviewed witnesses who described her as “crazy” and “wild.” One person, who knew her from a youth program said she “was good at creating different realities for people so that they would see what she wanted them to see, which got her really good attention.”

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[Featured image: Sherri Papini/handout]