The California Woman Who Faked Being Kidnapped Has Been Sentenced To A Year And A Half In Prison

In 2016, she claimed two Latina women kidnapped and abused her — but she later admitted she made it all up.

The California woman who faked her own kidnapping in 2016, prompting a massive search and flurry of media attention, was sentenced Monday to a year and a half in prison, according to the Department of Justice.

Sherri Papini, 39, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about her fake kidnapping and committing mail fraud on April 18, after years during which the wife and mother stood by her outlandish story of being abducted while jogging near her home in Redding, held captive, then abruptly released two weeks later. (Authorities later determined she actually spent the time at a former boyfriend's home in Southern California.) In addition to 18 months in prison, she has been ordered to 36 months of supervised release. She will also pay more than $300,000 in restitution to the California Victim Compensation Board, the Social Security Administration, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI for the money and resources she received while misrepresenting herself as a crime victim.

Prosecutors initially sought eight months in prison, but US District Judge William Shubb said during the trial that an 18-month sentence was necessary to deter others, according to CBS News. Papini was ordered to report to prison Nov. 8.

On Nov. 2, 2016, Papini was reported missing after she disappeared while jogging, leaving her cellphone and earbuds dropped by the side of a road. Local and federal authorities, plus volunteers, began a massive search effort for her in California and other states, but 22 days later, she reappeared about 150 miles from her home with chains around her body, her hair cut short, and her body bruised with a brand on her right shoulder. She claimed two Latina women kidnapped her at gunpoint and held her captive and abused her. For more than four years, Papini lied to police while they searched for her kidnappers — who never existed.

Evidence, like DNA, her cellphone, and car rental records, showed that Papini was voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend and that she had harmed herself. When investigators met with Papini in August 2020, she continued to lie even after multiple warnings from authorities.

"Papini's kidnapping hoax was deliberate, well planned, and sophisticated," prosecutors wrote in a court filing, according to CBS News.

Papini's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News on Monday but told reporters outside the courtroom that she accepts her sentencing.

Skip to footer