Years ago, she told the police that she had been abducted, beaten and branded. Today, she is in charge of inventing everything

She told an elaborate story of her abduction and treatment at the hands of the alleged attackers, who she said wore masks, spoke Spanish and held her at gunpoint.

Now Sherri Papini, 39, has been arrested and charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and mail fraud, the Justice Department said in a news release.

Papini was arrested on Thursday. CNN is still trying to determine if she is represented by an attorney.

“When a young mother disappeared in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in the statement. “Countless hours were spent following leads, all with the goal of bringing this woman back to her family. Three weeks later, she was found 146 miles south of where she went missing, and the focus shifted from trying to find her to trying to find her kidnappers.

“Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no abduction and that the time and resources that could have been used to investigate an actual crime, protect the community and provide resources to victims were wasted due to the conduct of the accused.”

Her husband reported her missing

Papini’s husband, Keith Papini, reported her missing on November 2, 2016, after she failed to pick up their children from daycare. She was last seen jogging near her home in Shasta County.

Three weeks later, on Thanksgiving Day, she was found alone on Interstate 5 about 140 miles from her home.

Based on her account, police searched for two Hispanic women matching Papini’s description. But investigators eventually found Papini made it up, prosecutors say. They say Papini was voluntarily staying with an ex-boyfriend during her alleged disappearance and caused her own injuries to back up her lies.

DNA evidence ultimately led them to the ex-boyfriend, according to the press release and prosecutors in the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

In August 2020, Papini was “warned that it was a crime to lie to federal agents” during an interview with federal and local investigators, the press release said.

“She was presented with evidence that showed she had not been abducted. Instead of recanting, Papini continued to make false claims about her alleged abductors,” the DOJ press release read.

Additionally, Papini received approximately 35 payments totaling more than $30,000 from the California Victims Compensation Board, according to the release. The money covered expenses, including visits to her therapist and an ambulance that took her to hospital after she reappeared.

Papini faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of misrepresentation, and a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for mail fraud.


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