A Northern California mother who confessed to faking her own kidnapping was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for the 2016 crime that resulted in a massive manhunt and yearlong news frenzy.
Sherri Papini, a 39-year-old mother of two, pleaded guilty in April to mail fraud and lying to a federal officer in the kidnap hoax. Prosecutors sought a much lighter eight-month prison sentence. Her attorney argued for a one-month sentence, with seven more in home custody.
The punishment includes 39 months of supervised release that will follow Papini’s release from prison. She also must pay $309,902 in restitution for expenses incurred by local, state and federal agencies, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in a statement.
“Not only did Papini lie to law enforcement, her friends, and her family, she also made false statements to the California Victim Compensation Board and the Social Security Administration in order to receive benefits as a result of her alleged ‘post-traumatic stress’ from being abducted,” Talbert’s office said.
U.S. District Judge William Shubb said that he considered “the sheer number of people who were impacted” by her actions in determining the sentence and said he hopes the punishment will deter others.
Papini disappeared while jogging near her home in November 2016 and surfaced alone and injured three weeks later, on Thanksgiving Day, on a highway 140 miles away. She claimed she’d been kidnapped at gunpoint and tortured by two women.
Authorities hunted the abductors for years before declaring Papini’s story a fiction and her injuries self-inflicted.
At the time of her guilty plea, she apologized for concocting the scheme and agreed to pay more than $300,000 in restitution to agencies she admitted defrauding with her lie.
“I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behavior and so very 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 then by her attorney.
Her husband Keith Papini, who reported her missing to authorities immediately after she vanished, filed for divorce a few days after the plea.
His divorce filing accused his wife of continuing to tell their two young children that the investigation into her kidnapping claim was all a misunderstanding with authorities.
“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,” Keith Papini said in the filing. “I do not believe she is in a position to provide good parenting and it would be inconceivable to thrust the children into that chaotic situation.”