Sherri ‘Supermom’ Papini arrested for staging a 2016 kidnap by ‘two Hispanic women’ when she was actually with an ex-boyfriend
Prosecutors charged Papini, 39, for lying to federal agents about the hoax and defrauding the state’s victim compensation board
The mother-of-two had been reported missing in the Sacramento area, on Nov. 2, 2016, after she did not come home from jogging and her children were not picked up from daycare
Papini was found 22 days later on Thanksgiving Day in 2016, after weeks of searching in California and several nearby states
She was found tied up on a freeway with a broken nose, a ‘brand’ on her right shoulder and a shaved head, with bindings on her body and injuries
She told authorities at the time that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, driving a dark SUV
Prosecutors said she was actually staying with a former boyfriend nearly 600 miles away from her home and hurt herself to back up her false statements
The boyfriend was identified after his relative’s at-home DNA test matched samples taken from her clothes six years ago
Papini was still lying about the kidnapping in August 2020 when she was interviewed by the FBI
She also faces mail fraud charges related to reimbursement requests from the state that carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison
She’d been reimbursed more than $30,000 by the Victim´s Compensation Board for visits to her therapist and for the ambulance ride
Investigators uncovered that she had multiple affairs while married, as family, friends and former co-workers said she ‘has a history of lying’
A Sacramento woman who claimed she was kidnapped for 22 days by two Hispanic women in 2016 in a story that shocked and puzzled America, has now been arrested for making it all up six years later.
On Thursday prosecutors charged Sherri Papini, 39, for lying to federal agents about being kidnapped and defrauding the state’s victim compensation board of $30,000.
Mother-of-two Sherri Papini, aka ‘Supermom’, was found on Thanksgiving Day in 2016 – 22 days after she disappeared while jogging on November 2 – following weeks of searching in California and several nearby states
She was found tied up on California’s I-5 freeway outside of Yolo, with a broken nose, a ‘brand’ on her right shoulder and a shaved head. Papini told authorities at the time that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women driving a dark SUV, even providing descriptions to an FBI sketch artist.
With no credible leads no one has ever been was ever been arrested, and authorities could never determine what the ‘Hispanic women’s’ motive was.
Papini cops said was actually staying with an unidentified ex-boyfriend who police say she asked to pick her up.
When Papini was found on Thanksgiving Day, 2016, police collected DNA samples from her clothes. They ran them against the national criminal database but found no matches.
In 2020, however, they were alerted to a potential match after someone in the ex-boyfriend’s family did an at-home family DNA test. That sample was traced to the ex-boyfriend, who subsequently admitted to the entire hoax.
An affidavit released by the US Attorney’s Office for Eastern California details how Papini had multiple affairs and boyfriends, and was described by exes as an ‘attention hungry’ woman who made things up for sympathy.
The ex-boyfriend is not named, but the affidavit states that the pair plotted their escape on pre-paid cell phones which they used to text each other before he picked her up in November 2016.
She then spent the next few weeks at his apartment, the boyfriend confessed to FBI agents. The events were corroborated by a cousin who saw Papini inside the apartment.
He also disclosed that he hired a rental car to drive her back to her family’s neighborhood on November 24, 2016.
‘In truth, Papini had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements,’ an announcement by the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California said in a release on Thursday night, adding that Papini maintained the fabric of lies, even after she was confronted her with contradictory evidence by the FBI agents.
The fraud case stems from the fact that Sherri Papini has since claimed $30,000 from the Victim Compensation Board. Between 2017 and 2022, Papini claimed a total of $30,000 in 35 payments the from Victim Compensation Board.
She is now being held in federal custody, awaiting her first court appearance.
The 55-page affidavit released Wednesday night reveals investigators were suspicious of the narrative from the beginning.
On November 2, Keith Papini the missing woman’s husband, reported her missing at 5.50pm after returning home from work. She was nowhere to be found and their two children had not been picked up from daycare.
Keith told police that he then used the ‘Find My iPhone’ app to locate Sherri’s phone, that was sitting on the side of the road near their home next to her earbuds, which were tangled in blonde hair.
He told authorities he thought it looked as though the phone had been ‘placed’ there and that it was positioned strangely.
Keith said the pair argued like any other married couple but had no serious marital issues. Their last argument was the previous month and was over a messy room, adding that his wife could be ‘loud’.
Searching through her phone investigators discovered two men’s phone numbers that were saved under women’s names, the affidavit claims. However, neither was the ex-boyfriend she spent her ‘missing’ weeks with. The men were interviewed, as well as one of her old bosses.
The day before she went missing, Papini texted one of the men and discussed meeting up in Redding, California, near her home.
That man lived in Michigan and had been in California for a work trip. He told police he’d met Papini in 2011 on a work trip and that the pair ‘spent the weekend together’.
They continued to exchange flirtatious messages for years, he said, but he did not end up meeting the weekend he was in California, before she disappeared.
The second man told police that he met Papini in 2000-2001 through a a Friday Night Live youth program. He said she was a liar who liked attention and would ‘tell stories’ to get it.
He said she once told him she was the victim of abuse in her family.
‘Man 2 described Papini as an attention-hungry person who told stories to try to get people’s attention. Man 2 stated that Papini fabricated stories of being the victim of abuse from her family, father, and then Man 2 after the couple broke up,’ the affidavit reads.
On the day Papini went missing, her husband Keith said he had first become concerned about her whereabouts when she stopped answering her phone.
Investigators also spoke with Papini’s boss at the Friday Night Live youth program, and he said he worried about having her in the program because she ‘was good at creating different realities for people so that they would see what she wanted them to see, which got her really good attention.’
Sherri was married once, to a serviceman, before she met Keith Papini. Her current husband told police that their entire marriage was a sham designed to get her onto his medical insurance so that she could receive treatment for a persistent heart murmur.
When police spoke to the first husband, he said she told him she needed the insurance due to ‘complications from regular egg donations’.
Papini’s mother said she’d told her she ‘traveled the world’ with her first husband when in reality, they had only traveled together once.
The ex-husband told police that after they divorced, he was told by mutual friends that she had a history of lying.
She faces a mail fraud charge related to the reimbursement requests that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, while lying to a federal officer has a maximum five-year sentence.
‘Everyone involved in this investigation had one common goal: to find the truth about what happened on Nov. 2, 2016, with Sherri Papini and who was responsible,’ said Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson. That 22-day search and five-year investigation not only cost money and time, he said, ‘but caused the general public to be fearful of their own safety, a fear that they should not have had to endure.’
The mother-of-two, dubbed a ‘supermom’ by her sister Sheila Koester, 36, disappeared while out jogging on November 2, 2016.
On the day she went missing, her husband Keith said he had first become concerned about her whereabouts when she stopped answering her phone.
When he discovered she hadn’t picked the kids up from daycare, he flew into full blown panic.
‘I couldn’t find her, so I called the day care to see what time she picked up the kids. The kids were never picked up so I got freaked out, I hit the Find My iPhone app thing,’ he said. ‘I found her phone; it’s got like hair ripped out of it, like, in the headphones.’
Her phone was discovered a mile away at the intersection of Sunrise Drive and Old Oregon Highway – neatly placed on the ground and with the headphones tidily wrapped around it.
Keith, who said at the time that his wife would never leave him or their children voluntarily, also launched an appeal – a GoFundMe account raising cash to pay for the search which eventually raised close to $50,000.
After being found three weeks later, with her hair hacked off and branded with a threatening message, Papini claimed she had been kidnapped by two Hispanic women who could not be identified because they constantly covered their faces.
Papini said the women had been driving a dark-colored SUV with ‘a large rear side window’ at the time of the kidnapping but has so far been unable to give details of the make and model.
However, police also revealed that male DNA that did not belong to husband Keith was found on her clothing and said she had been texting another man before her disappearance.
Cops investigating the kidnapping had discovered Papini’s texts and tracked down the man in Detroit, Michigan on November 9 – a week after she disappeared.
Following her return, Papini was said to be living a quiet existence at her family home which occupies a shady plot of land on the outskirts of Shasta Lake; a small town of 10,000 people in Northern California.
Further skepticism about why she disappeared emerged after it was revealed she had previously run away as a teenager.
And according to the Sacramento Bee, uncovered documents from 13 years ago outlined how Papini’s mother, Loretta Graeff, called police asking for help after her daughter was allegedly self-harming and trying to blame the wounds on her.
The incident report, filed in December 2003, is just two lines long and reads: ‘RP states her 21y/o daughter that was living with her was harming herself and blaming it on the RP.
‘RP states female is coming back to live with them and she wants advice.’
The newspaper also found two other incidents involving Papini, where her father and sister both claimed she damaged their property.
In 2000, Richard Graeff said his daughter ‘burglarized his residence,’ before Sheila Koester, ‘alleged her back door had been kicked in and she believed Papini was the suspect’, the Bee reported.
In retrospect, ‘we are relieved that the community is not endangered by unknown, violent kidnappers,’ said Sean Ragan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office.