Follow the investigation into the girl rescued in New York 3:37
(WABNEWS) — When she was found after a three-week search in 2016, a Northern California woman told police she had been kidnapped and marked by two women who had her chained in a closet.
She gave an elaborate story of her abduction and offered details of the alleged assailants, who she said wore masks, spoke Spanish and held her at gunpoint.RELATED
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 statement. Press release.
Papini was arrested Thursday. WABNEWS is still trying to determine if she is represented by an attorney.
“When a young mother disappeared in broad daylight, the community was filled with fear and concern,” US Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in the statement. “Countless hours were spent following leads, all in an effort to bring this woman back to her family. Three weeks later, she was found 140 miles south of where she disappeared, and the focus shifted from trying to find her to trying to find the kidnappers.
“Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping and that time and resources that could have been used to investigate the actual crime, protect the community and provide resources to the victims were wasted based on the defendant’s conduct.”
Her husband reported her missing.
Papini’s husband, Keith Papini, reported her missing on November 2, 2016, after she failed to pick up her children from daycare. She was last seen running 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.
According to her account, police searched for two Hispanic women who matched Papini’s description. But investigators eventually discovered that Papini had made it up, according to prosecutors. They claim that Papini voluntarily stayed with an ex-boyfriend during his alleged disappearance and had caused his own injuries to back up his lies.
DNA evidence eventually led them to the ex-boyfriend, according to the news release and the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors in US District Court.
In August 2020, Papini was “advised that it was a felony to lie to federal agents” during an interview with federal and local investigators, the news release says.
“Evidence was presented to her showing that she had not been kidnapped. Instead of retracting her kidnapping story, Papini continued to make false statements about her alleged kidnappers,” the Justice Department press release said.
In addition, Papini received about 35 payments totaling more than $30,000 from the California Victim Compensation Board, according to the release. The money covered her expenses, including visits to her therapist and an ambulance to take her to the hospital after she reappeared.
Papini faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted of making false statements, and a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the mail fraud charge.