Sherri Papini pleads guilty in 2016 kidnapping scandal

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Redding’s Sherri Papini formally pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to lying to the FBI and defrauding federal, state and local officials of more than $150,000 following her 2016 fake kidnapping.

Monday’s federal court hearing in Sacramento was just the latest chapter in a bizarre saga that began with her disappearance Nov. 2, 2016, while jogging near her home north of Redding.

During the virtual court proceedings, she pleaded guilty to both counts before U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb in Sacramento.

Before accepting Papini’s guilty pleas, Shubb asked her numerous questions about her background, her mental state, whether she had been treated for mental health issues, whether she had taken medication for mental health, and whether she understood the ramifications of pleading guilty.

“So, how are you feeling today?” asked the judge.

“I feel very sad, your honor. I feel very sad,” Papini said, breaking into tears.

“Do you feel like your mental state is such that you are able to proceed with this procedure this morning?” Shubb asked.

“Yes, your honor,” she said.

Under the terms of the plea deal, she will have to pay more than $300,000 in restitution to various government agencies.

The legal proceedings mark a twist in Papini’s story, which began when her husband, Keith Papini, reported her missing on November 2, 2016.

The 39-year-old mother of two arrived on Thanksgiving morning, 22 days later, chained up and wandering alone along Interstate 5 north of Sacramento. She told law enforcement that two Hispanic women kidnapped her at gunpoint while she was jogging.

She made up an elaborate story that the two women kept her locked up, abused her, cut her hair and branded her.

Instead of being held captive by two women, she was locked in an Orange County home while law enforcement, family, friends and community members conducted a wide search. national to find her.

FILE - Redding's Sherri Papini leaves the federal courthouse accompanied by her attorney, William Portanova, right, in Sacramento, California, April 13, 2022. In a virtual hearing, Papini agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors and pleaded guilty, Monday, April 18, 2022, to one count of mail fraud and one count of misrepresentation.  She will be sentenced on July 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Even after the FBI confronted her with evidence that she concocted the kidnapping scheme, she continued to lie to them, officials said in court documents.

But last week she admitted it was all a hoax.

As part of her admission, she signed an agreement to plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI about the kidnapping. She also admitted to lying to receive disability benefits from the US Social Security Administration.

She also said she received money from the California Victims Compensation Board under false pretences.

She released a statement last week through her attorney, William Portanova of Sacramento, expressing remorse for her actions.

“I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behavior and so sorry for the pain I have caused my family, my friends, all the good people who have suffered unnecessarily because of my story and those who have worked so hard to trying to help me,” Papini said in his statement. “I will work the rest of my life to fix what I have done.”

Read more:What experts say about Sherri Papini’s ‘bizarre’ case and its five-year investigation

FILE - Redding's Sherri Papini leaves the federal courthouse following her arraignment in Sacramento, California, April 13, 2022. In a virtual hearing, Papini agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors and pleaded guilty, on Monday, April 18, 2022, to one count of mail fraud and one count of misrepresentation.  She will be sentenced on July 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

The distribution of restitution includes reimbursement of $30,694 to the California Victims Compensation Board. She used much of that money to pay for therapy sessions to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety stemming from the “kidnapping”, according to court documents.

FILE - Redding's Sherri Papini leaves the federal courthouse accompanied by her attorney, William Portanova, right, in Sacramento, California, April 13, 2022. In a virtual hearing, Papini agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors and pleaded guilty, Monday, April 18, 2022, to one count of mail fraud and one count of misrepresentation.  She will be sentenced on July 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

She received $127,567 in Social Security benefits that she will have to repay. She will also have to reimburse $148,866 to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office for part of the costs of investigating her kidnapping.

She will also have to pay $2,558 in restitution to the FBI.

The $49,000 his family and friends raised through a GoFundMe account was not included in the restitution amounts.

Read more:‘Painful consequences’ for Latinas linger after Papini 2016 kidnapping story

She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer. She faces a maximum statutory sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for mail fraud, federal officials said.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the sentencing range, estimated at between eight and 14 months in custody for both counts.

Sentencing was set for July 11 at 9 a.m. in federal district court in Sacramento.

Read the plea agreement:

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Damon Arthur is Record Searchlight’s resources and environment reporter. He is part of a team of reporters who investigate wrongdoing and find the unknown voices to tell the stories of the North State. He welcomes story boards at 530-338-8834 by email at [email protected] and on Twitter at @damonarthur_RS. Help local journalism thrive by subscribing today!

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