SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California mom Sherri Papini, who faked her own kidnapping for three weeks in 2016, has signed a plea agreement in which she admits to her actions.
Papini, 39, of Redding, has agreed to plead guilty to two of the 35 federal charges against her. Court documents show she will admit to committing mail fraud and making false statements to a federal agent.
Papini’s defense attorney, William Portanova, confirmed to the Sacramento Bee that his client signed the plea deal. She faces a maximum of 25 years in prison on the charges.
“We are taking this case in an entirely new direction,” Portanova told the Bee. “Everything that has happened before today stops today.”
Papini was charged March 3 with a bevy of charges related to her alleged Nov. 2, 2016, abduction, which she claimed happened while she was jogging near her home. A 55-page affidavit filed in federal court detailed how Papini allegedly faked the kidnapping and stayed with a former boyfriend for three weeks.
Federal agents say she ultimately caused her own injuries — including a brand burned into her shoulder — before being “rescued” on Thanksgiving Day as she walked along Interstate 5 near Sacramento, nearly 150 miles from her home.
When questioned by detectives, Papini blamed two unidentified Hispanic women for the abduction.
The Bee reported Tuesday that Papini issued a statement through her attorney in which she expressed remorse for what she has done.
“I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behavior and so sorry for the pain I’ve caused my family, my friends, all the good people who needlessly suffered because of my story and those who worked so hard to try to help me,” Papini said. “I will work the rest of my life to make amends for what I have done.”
She is expected to formally plead guilty on Monday, according to the newspaper.
The plea agreement documents include a factual basis of the crime, in which authorities said she planned and participated in her own hoax kidnapping and then lied to FBI agents about her actions.
She also committed mail fraud based on the hoax, the documents state.
The mail fraud charge stems from the more than $30,000 Papini received from the California Victim’s Compensation Board after her return. A GoFundMe campaign designed to help find Papini raised more than $49,000.
Papini and her husband, Keith Papini, later used those funds to pay bills and take care of other expenses, authorities said. Neither Keith Papini nor anyone else involved in the case have been charged with a crime.
Read Sherri Papini’s plea agreement below.
As early as December 2015, Papini began communicating with a former boyfriend, who she talked into helping her “run away from her home and family” in Redding, according to federal prosecutors.
She initially communicated with her ex-boyfriend via her work phone to keep their talks secret. She later instructed the man to buy prepaid cellphones so their conversations could not be traced.
On Nov. 2, 2016, the morning of the alleged abduction, Papini had her former boyfriend pick her up on her jogging route near Redding and drive her to his own home in Costa Mesa. Authorities were later able to confirm that the man rented a car for the trip.
“Papini met ex-boyfriend at the location she designated near Sunrise Drive and voluntarily got into the rental car,” the court documents state. “Before doing so, Papini left her regular cellular telephone on the ground next to strands of her hair.”
Keith Papini later used the “Find my iPhone” app to locate the cellphone and his wife’s earbuds.
The plea agreement states that Papini voluntarily stayed at her former boyfriend’s home for more than three weeks, during which time the man said she starved herself and jaggedly cut her own hair.
She also inflicted injuries on herself, including burns.
Read the criminal complaint and affidavit for Papini’s arrest below.
“She had been branded on her right shoulder, although the exact content of the brand was indistinguishable,” according to prosecutors. “Papini’s nose was swollen, she had bruises on her face, rashes on her left arm and left upper inner thigh, as well as other parts of her body, ligature marks on her wrists and ankles, burns on her left forearm and bruising on her pelvis and the fronts of both legs.”
Once she returned home, Papini lied to authorities about what happened while she was gone. Even after she was confronted with evidence that contradicted her account of the supposed ordeal, she remained firm in her claims of being abducted.
She also obtained thousands of dollars of aid from the state for therapy sessions for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder she claimed was caused by her kidnapping. The California Victim Compensation Board also paid for Papini’s ambulance services, as well as window blinds for her home, the Bee reported.
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