Sherri Papini sentenced to 18 months in prison in hoax kidnapping case

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A Northern California woman who pleaded guilty to orchestrating an elaborate hoax about her kidnapping and even being cauterized with a branding iron by her captors was ordered Monday to serve 18 months in prison, more than double the time allowed by federal authorities. prosecutors recommended.

Sherri Papini, 40, was convicted in the US District Court in Sacramento. After learning her fate, Papini came out of the courtroom in tears and was embraced by friends, family and her mother, who was also crying.

U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb ordered Papini to turn herself in to begin her jail term at 2 p.m. on Nov. 8.

Federal prosecutors had asked Shubb to order Papini, a mother of two, to serve her sentence in prison, but only asked for eight months.

Prosecutors noted in court documents that Papini continued her bogus kidnapping plan long after she resurfaced in 2016 in her hometown of Redding, California, fraudulently amassed more than $300,000 in Social Security income, aid from the California Victim Compensation Board and made on her behalf through a GoFundMe campaign.

Surrounded by reporters, Sherri Papini arrives with her attorney William Portanova for her sentencing hearing in downtown Sacramento, California, Sept. 19, 2022.

Clifford Oto/The Stockton Record via USA Today Network

Defense attorneys had asked Shubb for mercy and asked her to spend most of her time under house arrest.

‘I am guilty of lying’

Shubb concluded that the prosecution’s and defense’s recommendations were inadequate, saying that Papini would likely still be continuing the hoax had she not become entangled in a web of lies.

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In addition to jail time, Shubb ordered Papini to serve three years of supervised probation when released and pay $309,000 in restitution, which the judge said will likely never be paid.

“I would rhetorically ask, who is going to hire her in the future?” said Shubb.

Before learning her fate, Papini publicly apologized in court, saying, “I choose to humbly take responsibility.”

‘I am guilty of lying. I am guilty of dishonor. I stand before you, ready to accept, to convert and to yield,’ said Papini. “What has been done cannot be undone. It can never be erased. I do not choose to remain frozen as I was in 2016. I choose to commit to healing the parts of myself that are so bad were broken.”

Papini pleaded guilty on April 18 to two counts of involvement in mail fraud and making false statements that were part of a 35-count indictment. In return for her plea, prosecutors agreed to a sentence that was on the lower end of federal sentencing guidelines.

Papini disappeared on November 2, 2016 while jogging in her Redding neighborhood. A massive search was launched for her and family members – including her husband, Keith Papini, who has since filed for divorce – begged the public for information about her whereabouts.

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“The events of the past two months have been shocking and devastating,” Keith Papini said in a statement released after the hearing. “My current focus is on going ahead and doing everything I can to help my two children live as normal, healthy and happy lives as possible.”

Sherri Papini’s sister, Shelia Koester, posted a lengthy statement on Facebook, apologizing to the Redding community for her sibling’s cheating. She said she didn’t know her sister made up the kidnapping until she told her a day before she pleaded guilty.

“That Sherri could have deliberately misled her own beautiful children, her devoted husband Keith, our families, the authorities and all of you for so long is beyond comprehension and was done for reasons only she knows about,” said Shelia Koester.

She added: “Unfortunately, despite what she has expressed to the media, she feels no regret or guilt for the untold damage she has caused, nor for misusing critical criminal, financial and mental health resources that should have gone to real “It pains me to say this, but my sister is very disturbed and I hope for her children that once she is released she will finally receive the treatment she clearly needs so much.”

A ‘deliberate, well-planned and sophisticated’ hoax

On Thanksgiving Day 2016, Papini, who is white, turned up along a highway more than 100 miles from Redding and told investigators, including FBI agents, that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, who tortured and branded her, authorities said. .

PHOTO: Sherri Papini leaves federal courthouse after federal judge William Shubb sentenced her to 18 months in prison in Sacramento, California, September 19, 2022.

Sherri Papini leaves the federal courthouse after federal judge William Shubb sentenced her to 18 months in prison in Sacramento, California, Sept. 19, 2022. Federal prosecutors had requested that she be sentenced to eight months in prison for feigning her own kidnapping in 2016.

Rich Pedroncelli/TBEN

But prosecutors said Papini was with an ex-boyfriend in Southern California the entire time she was missing and that the injuries she suffered, including the burn mark on her shoulder, were self-inflicted.

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“Over the next four years, Papini repeated a detailed false story about two Hispanic women who shot and abused her while holding her against her will. Papini’s kidnapping scheme was deliberate, well-planned and sophisticated,” prosecutors said. in court records, adding that prior to organizing the kidnapping, she communicated with her ex-boyfriend using prepaid cell phones.

US assistant attorneys Veronica Alegria and Shelley Weger wrote in court documents that “the nation is watching the outcome of Papini’s sentencing hearing.”

“The public should know that there will be more than a slap on the wrist for committing financial fraud and making false statements to law enforcement, especially when those false statements result in the expenditure of substantial resources and involve innocent people.” the prosecutors wrote. .

Papini declined to comment to reporters as she entered and exited the Sacramento courthouse on Monday, accompanied by her attorney, William Portanova.

“I do know that whatever happened five years ago is a different Sherri Papini than the person you see here today,” said Portanova, who described Papini in court documents as “outwardly sweet and loving, yet in stands for intense deceit.”

Matt Gutman, Sabina Ghebremedhin, Santina Leuci and Erving Last of TBEN News contributed to this report.

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