“She made the whole thing up” – Sherri Papini, whose 2016 disappearance & claimed abduction made worldwide headlines, arrested
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Federal, state, and local officials yesterday announced the arrest of a Redding woman, 39-year-old Sherri Papini, whose Nov. 2, 2016, disappearance made global headlines and kicked off a frantic, weeks-long search. Officials continued their search until she was located nearly a month later wandering along I-5 in Yolo County on Thanksgiving Day of that year.
Papini was eventually found three weeks after her disappearance with “various bindings on her body” and injuries including a broken nose and “brand” on her right shoulder. Although she initially claimed and has since maintained that she was abducted and held by a pair of Hispanic women, authorities are now saying “she made the whole thing up.”
Officials also allege that their more than five-year investigation uncovered that Papini was not kidnapped and being held during the twenty-two days that she was missing but had in fact been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa, according to a joint Department of Justice release from U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert, FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan, and Shasta County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson.
She has been charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud related to victim financial assistance in her claimed abduction.
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According to a criminal complaint filed in this case, (which can be viewed in its entirety here), numerous extensive searches were conducted for Papini in Shasta County and throughout the state, as well as in several other states after she was reported missing.
After being located in Yolo County on Nov. 24, 2016, Papini told law enforcement officers and others that she had been abducted at gunpoint by two Hispanic women and held against her will.
She also provided details of the alleged abductors to an FBI sketch artist, and based on her account, law enforcement agencies spent several months searching for any suspects matching Papini’s descriptions.
Pictured with husband Keith, Sherri Papini, 39, of Redding, was arrested yesterday on charges of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud related to victim financial assistance in her claimed abduction.
“The investigation eventually showed, however, that this was a false narrative Papini fabricated,” United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California officials wrote in a release announcing Papini’s arrest. “In truth, Papini had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements.”
During a subsequent follow-up interview conducted by a federal agent and a Shasta County Sheriff’s Office detective in August 2020, Papini was warned that it was a crime to lie to federal agents. She was also presented with evidence that showed she had not been abducted.
“However, instead of retracting her kidnapping story, Papini continued to make false statements about her purported abductors,” said officials.
“In addition, Papini caused the California Victim’s Compensation Board to pay victim assistance money based on
her kidnapping story,” officials continued. “From 2017 through 2021, Papini’s request for victim assistance caused approximately 35 payments totaling over $30,000, including for visits to her therapist and for the ambulance that transported her to the hospital after her return.”
“When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” U.S. Attorney Talbert explained after Papini’s arrest. “Shasta County Sheriff’s Office immediately began investigating, calling on the assistance of the FBI. Countless hours were spent following leads, all in an effort to bring this woman back to her family. Three weeks later, she was found 146 miles south of where she disappeared, and the focus went from trying to find her to trying to find her abductors.”
“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 based on the defendant’s conduct,” Talbert continued.
“This case exemplifies the FBI’s commitment to working tirelessly with law enforcement partners and prosecutors to examine all facts and seek the truth, no matter how long that process takes or how complex the analysis may be,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “We are grateful for the dedication of the agents, investigators, lab technicians, professional staff, and prosecutors who aided our collaborative fact-finding efforts.”
“We are relieved that the community is not endangered by unknown, violent kidnappers, and thank the public and media for their patience and strong support for this case since the initial reports of Sherri Papini’s disappearance,” Ragan continued.
Although Papini provided details that led to sketches being made of her alleged abductors, officials now say she made the whole story up, leading to her arrest yesterday. FBI images
“The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office is very thankful for the partnerships with all of the local, state, and federal allied agencies that have been involved with this investigation for the last five plus years,” said Sheriff Johnson. “The arrest of Sherri Papini was made possible by the outstanding hard work of a multitude of agents, detectives, DOJ criminalist, forensic analyst, crime scene investigators and support staff members that were assigned to this investigation.”
“Everyone involved in this investigation had one common goal; to find the truth about what happened on Nov. 2, 2016, with Sherri Papini and who was responsible,” Johnson continued. “The 22-day search for Sherri Papini and subsequent five-year search into who reportedly abducted her was not only taxing on public resources but caused the general public to be fearful of their own safety, a fear that they should not have had to endure.”
“The Sheriff’s Office has appreciated the support and patience from the citizens of Shasta County and abroad. This investigation has always been a priority to get solved for the Sheriff’s Office as well as for our investigating partners at the FBI and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Forensic Services and Bureau of Investigation,” the Sheriff went on to say.
“At the California Department of Justice, we’re proud of the work that our investigators and forensic experts do each and every day to provide critical investigative leads to our law enforcement partners across California,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “No matter the circumstances, our team is committed to the facts. While this case deals with a tough situation, we’ll continue to do our part to help secure justice. Thank you to our partners at the federal and local level for your commitment to seeing this case through.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the FBI and the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Forensic Services and Bureau of Investigation, and the California Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S.
Attorneys Veronica M.A. Alegría and Shelley D. Weger are prosecuting the case.
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If convicted of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer, Papini faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
If convicted of mail fraud, she faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
Contact the writer: [email protected]
Trevor Montgomery, 51, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and operates Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS), which act as stringer-news providers for other mainstream media organizations throughout the two regions they serve.
Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.
We knew it all the time. Any LE could sniff this one out, just needed to gather facts for a slam dunk conviction. She really thought she was smarter than the evidence. She deserves what she gets. What is done in darkness will always come to light. Either here on Earth or Heaven. The real victims here are her Husband and Children. What is done