California woman Sherri Papini will be able to walk out of jail after posting bail, a federal judge in Sacramento ruled Tuesday.
Papini’s attorney, Michael Borges, previously asked the court to release Papini on her own recognizance, citing concerns about the jail conditions and Papini’s restrictive diet. Borges said Papini’s food allergies have prevented her from eating most of the jail food.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremy D. Peterson ruled that Papini can be released on a $120,000 bond.
Papini has been in the Sacramento County Jail since Thursday after she was arrested on mail fraud charges and making false statements to law enforcement.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Papini is accused of staging her own 2016 kidnapping. Papini’s husband, Keith, who had access to GoFundMe funds meant to help find his wife, collected over $49,000 in payments. According to an affidavit, he used the charity money to pay off credit cards and other debts.
Federal prosecutors filed court documents claiming both Keith and Sherri Papini used the donations from the “Bring Sherri Home Safe” GoFundMe page for personal expenses. The GoFundMe page, which was created by Keith’s friend, was set up while Sherri was missing and was intended to help aid in the search.
Prosecutors also allege that on December 6, Keith wrote a $31,818.13 check to himself from the GoFundMe account. Prosecutors said they tracked down the rest of the money to see if it was used to help in any way during the search efforts.
After paying down credit cards, the couple allegedly divided the rest of the money between their bank accounts for personal use.
Prosecutors said Papini collected more than $30,000 from the California Victims Compensation Board.
Papini, however, was never missing, prosecutors allege. Instead, she stayed with an ex-boyfriend, identified as 37-year-old sports shop worker, James Reyes.
Days before Sherri Papini was found, an alleged “anonymous donor” offered to pay the ransom payment to the so-called kidnappers if they returned Papini by November 23, 2021. It’s unclear how much money was sent but a man named Cameron Gamble said he facilitated the transaction between a man from “out of town” and a mutual friend.
Gamble reportedly declined to reveal the amount of money but did claim it was substantial, SacBee reports.
The following day, Papini emerged on the side of a rural road off of the I-5 freeway in Yolo, with her hands and feet shackled. The emaciated Papini was “branded,” with her hair chopped shorter, and cuts and bruises all over her body.
Papini claimed that two Hispanic females kidnapped and physically abused her before pushing her out of their car and leaving her along the Interstate, with a hose tied around her hands and ankles and a metal chain tied around her waist.
Shortly after Papini was found, police collected DNA samples from her clothes in an attempt to track down the alleged kidnappers. Initially, they didn’t get a match after running the samples through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
In 2020, investigators were told there was a potential DNA match in the case after a family member of Papini’s former boyfriend took a home DNA test. The match led investigators to Papini’s ex, who reportedly admitted that Papini was with him and wasn’t kidnapped. He also admitted that they used prepaid phones to communicate with each other.
“DNA evidence recovered from PAPINI’s clothing she was wearing when she returned matched Ex-Boyfriend’s DNA. Phone records show that PAPINI and Ex-Boyfriend were talking to one another as early as December 2015,” the arrest affidavit states.
“Ex-Boyfriend told investigators that he and PAPINI used prepaid phones to talk to one another; this was corroborated through evidence of two prepaid cellular phones that were tied to the Ex-Boyfriend and would communicate with each other – one from PAPINI’s location and the other from Ex-Boyfriend’s location.”
“Papini told him that her husband was beating and raping her and she was trying to escape,” the documents say. “Papini told ex-boyfriend that she had filed police reports, but the police were not doing anything to stop her husband’s abuse.”
Papini “did not at any point throughout the interview disavow her repeated statements that two Hispanic women kidnapped her,” and she did not “admit that Ex-Boyfriend had picked her up,” court documents state.
Reyes initially denied helping Papini disappear for weeks, but when he was presented with evidence, he allegedly admitted to the ruse and admitted that he cut her hair. He also said that Papini burned and hit herself to make it look like she was injured. She also reportedly asked Reyes to brand her, which he did, according to court documents.
Reyes, according to prosecutors, said Papini contacted him and told him she was being abused at home and wanted him to come to get her, so they could plan to be together.
“Papini told him that her husband was beating and raping her and she was trying to escape,” the documents read. “Papini told ex-boyfriend that she had filed police reports, but the police were not doing anything to stop her husband’s abuse.”
After several weeks, Papini told Reyes that she wanted to see her children and wanted to go back to Redding. Reyes said he drove her seven hours back to the area and dropped her off at a country road off of I-5
Warning and Arrest
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 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.”
Papini faces up to 20 years behind bars if convicted on mail fraud charges and up to five years if convicted for lying to the FBI. No one else has been charged in the incident but more arrests could be a possibility, according to the prosecution.
Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Keith and Sherri Papini/ Handout]