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Sherri Papini, California woman who allegedly made up abduction, freed on bond

She was ordered released on $120,000 bond Tuesday following her arrest Thursday.
Image: Sherri Papini
Sherri Papini runs out of the Sacramento County Jail after being released on March 8, 2022.Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Zuma Press

Sherri Papini, a California woman accused of fabricating her headline-making story of abduction in 2016, was released from jail Tuesday on $120,000 bond.

The 39-year-old from Mountain Gate, a Northern California community near Redding, was arrested Thursday on charges of lying to federal law enforcement and mail fraud.

On Tuesday, she exited a Sacramento County Jail facility and ran toward her family.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremy Peterson of the U.S. District Court in Sacramento said she must surrender her passport. He listed conditions of her release: psychiatric treatment, no alcohol or illegal drugs, no travel out of the region without prior approval, and no guns.

Her attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chris Thomas, a representative for the Papini family, said in a statement Thursday that she has their support.

“We love Sherri and are appalled by the way in which law enforcement ambushed her this afternoon in a dramatic and unnecessary manner in front of her children,” the family said.

On Nov. 2, 2016, Papini's then-husband reported her missing. That triggered costly and "extensive" searches in the region and out of state, prosecutors said.

Later that month, California Highway Patrol officers responded to reports of a woman running in lanes on Interstate 5 in suburban Sacramento, more than 140 miles south of Mountain Gate, and discovered Papini with a truck driver who had stopped to help, they said.

Prosecutors allege she made up a story about being abducted by two armed Latina women, triggering a law enforcement search.

Local and federal investigators ultimately alleged that Papini lied and had been staying with an ex-boyfriend in Costa Mesa, nearly 590 miles south of her home.

In August 2020 interview with a federal agent and local detective prosecutors say Papini was presented with evidence of her alleged lies. They say it was noted that lying to a federal agent is a crime.

She stuck with her narrative, prosecutors said.

Papini also accepted more than $30,000 from the California Victim’s Compensation Board based on her abduction narrative, they said. Because at least one payment was made by mail, prosecutors also charged her with mail fraud.

Papini faces maximum sentences of five years in prison for lying to a federal agent and 20 years in prison on mail fraud.