Sherri Papini was originally reported missing by her husband in November 2016 after she left their home in Shasta County, California to go for a jog and never returned. Three weeks later on Thanksgiving Day, authorities found Papini on an interstate highway approximately 140 miles from home. Papini told police she had been abducted and branded by two women wearing masks. Papini also told police the women had kept her chained in a closet and held her at gunpoint. After a thorough investigation of the incident, the Department of Justice uncovered that Papini had fabricated the entire story of her abduction and stayed with her ex-boyfriend during the three weeks she was reportedly missing.
During that time, Papini received more than $30,000.00 in fraudulent victim assistance money based on her hoax. In April 2022, Papini pled guilty to mail fraud and making false statements in court. She faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and up to $500,000.00 in fines. Her sentencing was originally scheduled for July 2022, but has been postponed to September 2022.
Papini and her husband married in October 2009 and separated on March 3, 2022, the same day she was arrested on federal charges. After Papini pled guilty earlier this year, her husband filed for divorce and custody of the couples’ two children. Papini appeared virtually in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California when pleading guilty to mail fraud and making false statements in court. Judge William B. Shubb asked Papini if she had ever been treated for mental illness. Papini told the court she was in treatment for anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Papini’s husband reported having a difficult time dealing with Papini’s hoax. In a court document, he said, “The fact that their mother lied to them on such a major issue is something they, and I, are having a hard time dealing with. We, both children and I, need time to recover and stabilize.” Papini’s husband is reportedly asking the court for custody of the couples’ two children to help shield them from the negative impact of Papini’s actions.