Sherri Papini released on $120,000 bail after being charged with faking kidnapping

A “missing” sign for Sherri Papini posted on the side of a dirt road.
A “missing” sign for Sherri Papini in Mountain Gate, Calif., in November 2016. On Thursday, Papini was arrested and charged with lying to federal agents and defrauding the state’s victim compensation fund.
(Andrew Seng / Sacramento Bee)

Sherri Papini, a Shasta County woman accused of faking her kidnapping in 2016 in an incident that made national headlines, was released from jail Tuesday evening.

A one-page order, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremy Peterson at 3:20 p.m., granted Papini’s pretrial release on $120,000 bail.

Video shot by the Sacramento Bee shows her leaving Sacramento County Main Jail shortly before 5 p.m., running as reporters chase her. Papini was met by five family members who surrounded her to block camera views as they took her to a vehicle, the Bee reported.


Papini and her family did not make a statement, according to the Bee.

The 39-year-old was arrested Thursday and charged with lying to federal agents in faking her abduction and defrauding a California victim compensation fund of more than $30,000 meant for therapy and other costs. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

As a condition of her release, Papini will have to undergo psychiatric treatment and surrender her passport.

During Tuesday’s virtual detention hearing, Peterson agreed with her attorney that she wasn’t a flight risk or a threat to the community.

In arguing against Papini’s release, Assistant U.S. Atty. Veronica Alegria said that when FBI agents tried to arrest her last week, “she screamed ‘no’ and ran away from them and resisted arrest.” Papini’s attorney said she was running toward her children.

Her Nov. 2, 2016, disappearance while out on a jog in the small town of Mountain Gate kicked off a three-week search that ended when she was found Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day, by the side of Interstate 5 in Yolo County. She had a quarter-inch-thick chain around her waist and hose clamps around her wrists, and her face was bruised and her nose broken.

She was emaciated and weighed only 87 pounds when she flagged down a motorist, who dialed 911.


The mother of two described harrowing treatment at the hands of her alleged abductors, who she claimed were Spanish-speaking women.

But during the weeks Papini was believed to be missing, prosecutors said, she was actually staying with an ex-boyfriend in Orange County.

Sherri Papini said she was abducted by two Latina women in Northern California. But authorities say she was with an ex-boyfriend in Orange County.

March 5, 2022

According to the criminal complaint, investigators first began to question Papini’s story in 2020 after DNA found on her clothing upon her return was matched to one of her ex-boyfriends.

The ex-boyfriend told investigators that Papini had asked him for help after telling him that her husband was abusive and that local law enforcement was not investigating, according to the complaint, which noted that the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office didn’t have any domestic violence reports filed by Papini.

He picked her up just outside Redding in a rented car and drove her to his home in Costa Mesa, prosecutors said, and she did not leave the home during her stay.

The ex-boyfriend told investigators that Papini cut her hair, hit herself to create bruises and burned herself on her arms. He said he helped her create some of the injuries, the complaint states, “although he never laid his hands directly on her.”


He also participated in branding Papini using a wood-burning tool, according to the complaint. The ex-boyfriend then drove Papini back to the Redding area at her request, again using a rented car.

Investigators spoke with numerous people who told them Papini routinely exaggerated and lied to gain attention.

The Northern California woman was arrested on suspicion of lying to the FBI as prosecutors allege the entire incident was a hoax.

March 3, 2022

Her story put many in the Latino community on alert.

Araceli Gutierrez, a coaching and business consultant who works with Latinas in Northern California and who is a radio host with the bilingual station Stereo Salvaje in Tehama County, said Papini’s story fed into racist tropes and was especially incendiary coming in November 2016, after Donald Trump had made offensive remarks about Mexican people throughout his presidential campaign.

The complaint noted that for years, the community was on the lookout for a pair of Latina women, spurring mistaken tips about “suspicious-looking” women.

“The 22-day search for Sherri Papini and subsequent five-year search into who reportedly abducted her was not only taxing on public resources but caused the general public to be fearful of their own safety, a fear that they should not have had to endure,” said Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson.

Papini’s family issued a statement Thursday through a public relations firm saying they were appalled by the way she was arrested, “ambushed” by law enforcement in front of her children.


The statement did not address the veracity of the charges but said the family is “confused by several aspects” of the counts.

Papini’s attorney, Michael Borges, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.