Sherri Papini, who in 2016 claimed she was kidnapped by two Hispanic woman who held her at gunpoint and “branded” her, pleaded guilty to lying to a federal officer and mail fraud, finally admitting that she perpetrated a hoax.
Her attorney said Papini signed a plea agreement on Tuesday, though it is unclear what that agreement entails. Papini expressed remorse in a statement released Wednesday.
“I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behavior and so sorry for the pain I’ve caused my family, my friends, all the good people who needlessly suffered because of my story and those who worked so hard to try to help me,” Papini said in a statement released through her attorney, William Portanova, according to People. “I will work the rest of my life to make amends for what I have done.”
As The Daily Wire previously reported, for three weeks in November 2016, the nation believed Papini had been kidnapped, prompting a nationwide search involving the FBI. Papini, 39, faked the entire kidnapping and spent the time at an ex-boyfriend’s house, police said in March. Police also announced at that time that Papini had been arrested in 2020 for lying to investigators after she was presented with evidence that she had faked the kidnapping and defrauded California out of more than $30,000 in victim assistance, NBC News reported.
Three weeks after Papini disappeared, she was found on the side of a Yolo County freeway with a chain around her waist and a “brand” on her shoulder, which she claimed had been put on her by her kidnappers.
“In truth, Papini had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a press release.
Papini originally told investigators that two Hispanic women kept her captive at gunpoint, and even worked with an FBI sketch artist to come up with images of the two women, which police used to search for them. It was DNA from her clothing that ultimately unraveled her story. DNA had been collected and put into a database that was routinely checked, NBC reported. It was this DNA that led to Papini’s ex-boyfriend.
When questioned, the ex-boyfriend, who has not been charged and thus has not been named, told investigators that Papini had told him she needed help and to get away, so he agreed to pick her up in Redding, California, and let her stay with him the entire time she was missing, according to FBI documents. The ex-boyfriend told investigators he didn’t know what Papini’s “final plan was” or if the situation meant they were getting back together.
The ex also said that Papini asked him to brand her using a wood-burning tool and eventually asked him to drive her back to Northern California.
“Investigators say the ex-boyfriend’s story was corroborated with car rental receipts and phone records, and the ex-boyfriend knew details not known to the public,” NBC reported. “The ex-boyfriend told investigators he initially thought he was just helping a friend, but after seeing the news about the later kidnapping claims he got worried, according to the affidavit.”
The ex-boyfriend did not contact authorities when he learned about the fake kidnappings, but told investigators that he planned to cooperate when they eventually came looking for him.
Papini was interviewed again in August 2020, nearly four years after her disappearance, but again claimed she had been kidnapped by two women with a gun. She also denied staying with her ex after investigators asked her about the claim.