Kidnap hoaxer Sherri Papini spars with ex-husband over $3,200 Best Buy spree

The 41-year-old made national headlines in 2016 after she faked her own disappearance

Martha McHardy
Friday 03 November 2023 18:21 GMT
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Related video: Video shows Papini minutes before she was located in 2016

Kidnap hoaxer Sherri Papini sparred with her ex-husband in court this week as the pair finalised their divorce.

The 41-year-old made national headlines in 2016 after she faked her own kidnapping to be with her former lover, claiming her then-husband, Keith Papini, 39, was abusive.

Papini filed for divorce in April 2022 just days after his ex-wife pleaded guilty to the hoax.

She was sentenced to 18 months in prison in September 2022 before being released the following September, eight months early. She was also ordered to pay a $300,000 fine.

Papini is now embroiled in a custody battle with her ex-husband over their two children after he filed for full custody while she was in prison.

A judge granted Mr Papini temporary custody of their two children as their divorce proceeds through the courts.

The pair appeared in court this week, where they sparred over finances, including insurance money paid for home repairs and a $3,200 Best Buy bill, racked up by Ms Papini, who was accused of going on a 15-day spending spree in August 2022.

Mr Papini said his ex-wife spent $3,238.10 over two weeks in August 2022 on a credit card he had got her to try to boost her credit score.

He said his ex-wife spent the money despite having no means of paying it back.

A statement included in court papers also shows the 41-year-old racked up a $571.72 tab on an Airbnb in Montague, California, made a $254.79 charge at a local branch of Walmart and paid two bills of $149.08 and $218.53 at a branch of Kohl’s in Chico.

Additional charges included multiple payments she made to Amazon, including on Prime membership. She also spent $933 on legal fees and splashed out $161.15 at upscale Northern California grocery store Raley’s.

Papini took to the witness stand, where she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when she was asked about her finances.

She was seen wiping away tears as she talked about wanting her share of the money earned as a couple, as she claimed her ex-husband’s control over the money left her with nothing, reported DailyMail.com.

Sherri Papini and her husband Keith

It comes after she skipped the first scheduled court hearing for her divorce last month. Her estranged husband claims her legal team refuses to speak to him.

The couple were married for 13 years but separated after the fake kidnapping, which triggered a massive law enforcement operation and which officials say wasted countless resources.

The mother-of-two disappeared for 22 days before turning up on the side of a highway on Thanksgiving morning.

She alleged upon her return that she’d been tortured, branded and kept chained in a bedroom, claiming that her so-called abductors were two masked Hispanic women. Her husband reportedly believed her story.

That story, however, began to unravel when federal prosecutors began probing the then 34-year-old’s account of the abduction, noticing that certain details didn’t seem to match up.

Investigators then 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.

Papini is estimated to have drained nearly $300,000 from multiple agencies as a result of her faked kidnapping, including more than $30,000 from the California Victim’s Compensation Board and more than $127,000 from the United States Social Security Administration (SSA).

The moment Sherri Papini was told by detectives that they’d figured out she faked her own kidnapping

She is required to pay back what she owes to the SSA in addition to the $148,866 to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that investigated the hoax and $2,558 to the FBI.

“She maintained her hoax and received Social Security and California Victims’ benefits for years, demonstrating that she had no remorse for her actions even after the FBI presented her with evidence of her fraud,” court documents said.

Papini was later revealed to have disappeared with her ex-boyfriend James Reyes in Costa Mesa, California, whom she enlisted to help create the bruises and branding she showed off as evidence of her kidnapping.

She was eventually arrested for the hoax and sentenced to 18 months in prison after accepting a plea deal.

At the time, prosecutors argued that the societal harms brought on by Papini’s “thoughtless actions” should be taken into consideration, after she stoked racial divisions as residents believed a pair of kidnappers were roaming through their community.

“An entire community believed the hoax and lived in fear that Hispanic women were roving the streets to abduct and sell women,” prosecutors said.

Her defence attorney had argued previously that his client should receive the lesser sentence of home confinement because the public nature of her crime has amounted to feel like a “life sentence” already.

“Papini’s painful early years twisted and froze her in myriad ways,” William Portantino wrote in a court filing. “It is hard to imagine a more brutal public revelation of a person’s broken inner self. At this point, the punishment is already intense and feels like a life sentence.”

Since her release, Papini has moved to a small community called Red Bluff, approximately 30 miles from the family home.

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