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Woman Who Claimed She Was Kidnapped At Gunpoint By ‘Two Hispanic Women’ Charged With Faking Abduction

Photo: Shasta County Sheriff's Office
Sherri Papini

California woman, Sherri Papini, 39, who had disappeared for weeks in 2016 and claimed she'd been held at gunpoint, is alleged to have made up the entire aduction story.

Instead, investigators believe Papini had been staying with her ex-boyfriend.

Papini's apparent kidnapping and miraculous rescue had made headlines in 2016, however, the story has ended with Papini's arrest on Thursday on charges of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud.

What happened to Sherri Papini?

The California mother had been reported missing in November 2, 2016, after she had been last seen going for a jog.

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She was found 22 days later, on Thanksgiving, when a motorist discovered Papini on the side of the road.

Papini then told authorities that she had been abducted and held at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, even providing details of their appearance to an FBI sketch artist.

The Department of Justice's investigation into Papini's disappearance found that she had actually been staying with her ex-boyfriend.

Papini even went as far as to physically harm herself to corroborate her story, being found on the side of the road with a chain around her waist, and a branding on her shoulder that she said had been done by her kidnappers.

“Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping,” Phillip A. Talbert, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, said in a statement.

He added that, "countless hours" were spent not only on the search for her, but for the alleged abductors.

Papini's claims have been criticized by advocates in the Lantinx community.

Papini's fraudulent claims exploit and contribute to harmful and innaccurate stereotypes about the Hispanic and Latinx community.

“Once again, we’re attacking Latinos and putting them into a box and using xenophobic and racist attitudes toward Latinos,” the League of United Latin American Citizens' Texas director, Rudy Rosales, told The Post.

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“She’s perpetuating a negative stereotype of Latinos in general. That’s unacceptable and shameful, quite frankly.”

Investigators caught Papini in her lies in 2020.

During a 2020 interview conducted by a federal agent and a Shasta County Sherrif's Office detective, Papini was warned that it was a crime for her to lie to federal agents.

She had been shown evidence that the abduction was false, and instead of admitting to it, Papini continued to make false statements about her alleged abductors.

Investigators also said that Papini had applied to the California Victim’s Compensation Board for victim assistance money based on her kidnapping story. 

From 2017 to 2021, Papini had been collecting 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.

Authorities found DNA on Papini's clothing that led them to discovering her ex-boyfriend. It was then that he told police that Papini had come to him and asked for help, needing to get away. 

He had agreed to pick her up up in Redding, California, and had let her stay at his home in Costa Mesa, which is located in the Los Angeles area during the entire time she had claimed to have been held captive.

The ex-boyfriend told police that he had no idea "what the final plan was" or if her staying with him meant they would be getting back together, considering Papini was married at the time.

If convicted, Papini could face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for making false statements to a federal officer, and up to 20 years and a fine of $250,000 for mail fraud.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.

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