“Super mom” Sherri Papini, who admitted to faking her 2016 kidnapping, should receive eight months in prison for triggering a massive law enforcement operation and wasting countless resources, federal prosecutors recommended to the judge presiding over the Northern Californian’s case.
Federal prosecutors rejected the proposal from probation officials who asked that the 40-year-old only serve one month, noting that the 40-year-old woman who admitted to staging the hoax continues to peddle the lie that she was abducted while out for a jog five years ago.
“Papini’s actions had real negative consequences for the community and other victims,” Assistant US Attorneys Veronica Alegria and Shelley Weger wrote in court records, according to the Sacramento Bee. “There needs to be just punishment for her conduct,” they added.
The kidnapping scheme began back in November 2016, when Ms Papini seemed to disappear while out for a jog in Redding, located about 160 miles north of Sacramento.
Her husband, Keith, who has since filed for divorce, made the first call to 911 to alert authorities that he suspected something wasn’t right after she failed to pick up their two children from day-care.
Sherri Papini of Redding leaves the federal courthouse accompanied by her attorney, William Portanova, right, in Sacramento, Calif., April 13, 2022
(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Papini, now 40 years old, would remain missing for 22 days, kicking off a demanding and expensive multi-state search that would tap into the resources of several agencies, including canine units and helicopters. That disappearance, prosecutors now argue, was part of a larger ruse that Papini allegedly cooked up in order to see her ex-boyfriend.
“Over the next four-plus years, Papini repeated a detailed false story about two Hispanic women taking her at gunpoint and inflicting abuse upon her while holding her against her will. Papini’s kidnapping hoax was deliberate, well planned, and sophisticated,” prosecutors wrote in their recommendation, highlighting the false narrative that Ms Papini had regaled police with when she was located a little more than three weeks after her supposed disappearance.
That narrative and its ricocheting impacts in the community is part of why prosecutors believe she should serve out an eight-month prison sentence.
“Papini’s crime has many societal harms such as causing the public to live in fear and possibly causing law enforcement to doubt the veracity of future victims’ claims,” prosecutors wrote. “An entire community believed the hoax and lived in fear that Hispanic women were roving the streets to abduct and sell women.”
Details of the woman’s tale began to fall apart in the years after she was found. Most telling of all was when investigators traced some of the DNA found on her clothing to an ex-boyfriend, who upon being confronted by police confessed that the pair had carefully staged the abduction using burner mobile phones.
He admitted to picking up Ms Papini and then spending the supposed “missing” three weeks with her in his apartment, according to an affidavit released by the US Attorney’s Office for Eastern California.
By March of this year, the FBI, who had begun working on Ms Papini’s case years earlier, charged her with making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud, which together carry a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
In this Nov. 10, 2016, photo, a “missing” sign for Mountain Gate, Calif., resident Sherri Papini, is seen along Sunrise Drive, near the location where the mom of two was believed to have gone missing while on an afternoon jog
On 12 April, after appearing at a Sacramento federal court, the mother who had once been adoringly labelled a “super mom” by the press agreed to a plea deal and admitted her story was fabricated.
On Monday morning, Ms Papini will face sentencing, which will be delivered by Senior US District Judge William B Shubb in Sacramento federal court.
Prosecutors continued to hammer in their recommendations that Ms Papini’s actions were premeditated, and therefore an eight-month prison service with an additional three years of supervised release would be more than fitting.
“Papini’s false reports about being kidnapped were not something she invented after her return to avoid the repercussions of running away from her husband and family,” they wrote. “Rather, the evidence shows that Papini planned this hoax before her disappearance.”
Sherri Papini was arrested and charged with fabricating her own abduction in 2016
(KTVU FOX 2)
One important admission that Ms Papini made that the prosecution cites as evidence of this premeditated calculation was when she described how she purposefully left her cell phone with strands of her hair lying along the road where she’s supposedly gone missing.
“Although Papini intended for this statement to corroborate her kidnapping, it shows her forethought and the sophistication of her plan to carry out a convincing hoax,” they wrote.
As part of her plea agreement, it called for restitution totalling $309,686.33, court papers say, in order to cover the expenses of the authorities involved in her search and rescue and the more than $30,000 she collected from the California Victim Compensation Board Read upon her return.
Papini could have faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for making false statements to the FBI and a 20-year sentence and fine of $250,000 for mail fraud count.
The attorney representing Ms Papini, William Portanova, could not be reached by The Independent for comment and has yet to file his own sentencing recommendation for his client, the Sacramento Bee reported.