Prosecutors: California woman kidnapped in 2016 made it all up

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A woman who disappeared for several weeks in 2016, then told investigators when she was found that she had been kidnapped, is now facing charges because prosecutors say her entire story was made up.

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Sherri Papini was found on Thanksgiving in 2016 after weeks of searching in California with bindings on her body and injuries, The Associated Press reported. Papini had previously been reported missing Nov. 2, and when she was found, Papini told police she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, offering extensive details, The AP reported.

Police said their investigation determined that Papini had made the entire thing up, that she stayed with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa during the period she was missing, and had harmed herself to make her story convincing, USA Today reported. Papini was married at the time of her disappearance.

“When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said in a statement. “Countless hours were spent following leads, all in an effort to bring this woman back to her family. … Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping and that time and resources that could have been used to investigate actual crime, protect the community, and provide resources to victims were wasted based on the defendant’s conduct.”

Papini is charged with making false statements to law enforcement and mail fraud, NBC News reported.

Papini was also given more than $30,000 by the California Victim’s Compensation Board as a result of her false story, and so is facing mail fraud charges stemming from those payments, which were meant to pay for therapy and medical care, The Associated Press reported.

Papini’s family released a statement saying: “We love Sherri and are appalled by the way in which law enforcement ambushed her this afternoon in a dramatic and unnecessary manner in front of her children. … Sherri and Keith have cooperated with law enforcement’s requests despite repeated attempts to unnecessarily pit them against each other, empty threats to publicly embarrass them and other conduct that was less than professional. We are confused by several aspects of the charges and hope to get clarification in the coming days,” The Sacramento Bee reported.

Keith Papini is Sharri Papini’s husband, The Sacramento Bee reported.