California chameleon awaits sentencing for 2016 kidnapping hoax

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Northern California mother-of-two faces up to eight months in prison on Monday for meticulously faking her own kidnapping so she could return to a former boyfriend, prompting an intensive three-week search across several states before resurface on Thanksgiving Day in 2016.

Sherri Papini, 40, pleaded guilty last spring in a plea bargain that includes paying more than $300,000 in restitution. Her lawyer says she is troubled and disgraced and should serve most of her sentence at home, while prosecutors say it is imperative that she spend her entire sentence in prison.

“The Papini kidnapping hoax was deliberate, well-planned and sophisticated,” prosecutors wrote in their court filing. And she was still telling people falsely that she had been kidnapped, prosecutors said, months after pleading guilty in April to masterminding the kidnapping and lying to the FBI about it.

“The nation is watching the outcome of Papini’s sentencing hearing,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Veronica Alegria and Shelley Weger wrote. “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, particularly when such misrepresentations involve the expenditure of substantial resources and involve innocent people.”

Probation officers and Papini’s lawyer say she is expected to serve one month in custody and seven months in house arrest. Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb is due to sentence her after a final hearing in federal court in Sacramento.

“Seemingly gentle and loving, yet capable of intense deception… Ms. Papini’s chameleon personalities drove her to seek family security and youthful freedom simultaneously,” defense attorney William Portanova wrote in his filing. answer.

So “in pursuit of an absurd fantasy,” Portanova said the married mother ran away to an ex-boyfriend in Southern California, nearly 600 miles south of her home in Redding. He dropped her off along Interstate 5 about 150 miles (240 kilometers) from her home after she said she wanted to go home.

Passers-by found her with ties all over her body, a swollen nose, a fuzzy “mark” on her right shoulder, bruises and rashes all over her body, ligature marks on her wrists and ankles and burns on the left forearm. All injuries were self-inflicted and all designed to support her story that she was abducted at gunpoint by two Hispanic women while she was running.

The injuries were a manifestation of his “unstable masochism” and “self-inflicted penance”, Portanova wrote. And once she started, “every lie demanded another lie.”

Prosecutors said Papini’s ruse harmed more than herself and her family. “An entire community believed in the hoax and lived in fear of Hispanic women roaming the streets abducting and selling women,” they wrote.

Prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence below the sentencing range in exchange for Papini’s guilty plea. It was to be between eight and 14 months of detention, against 25 years maximum for the two counts.

She provided no rationale for her actions, baffling even independent mental health experts who said her actions did not fit any typical diagnosis.

“Papini’s painful early years twisted and froze her in so many ways,” Portantino said as he pleaded for home confinement. With his deception finally exposed, he said: ‘It’s hard to imagine a starker public revelation of a person’s shattered inner self. At this point, the punishment is already intense and feels like a life sentence.

But prosecutors said “his past trauma and mental health issues alone cannot explain all of his actions.”

“Papini’s planning of his prank abduction was meticulous and began months in advance – it was not simply the reaction to a traumatic childhood,” they wrote.

After his arrest in March, Papini received more than $30,000 in psychiatric treatment for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She billed the state victim compensation fund for the treatment and now has to pay it back as part of her restitution.

As part of the plea deal, she agreed to reimburse law enforcement more than $150,000 for search costs for her and her non-existent kidnappers, and to repay the $128,000 she received. on disability benefits since his return.

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