Criminal charges may be filed against others in the case of Sherri Papini — the California mom accused of faking her own kidnapping nearly six years ago, authorities said Monday.
Papini, 39, of Redding, was busted Thursday in her alleged abduction hoax that made headlines across the world in late 2016 and sparked an intense three-week search in northern California.
Authorities said Papini — who claimed two Hispanic women kidnapped her at gunpoint — was actually lying the entire time and was staying at an ex-boyfriend’s house some 150 miles away in southern California, where she allegedly assaulted herself to back up her story.
Neither Papini’s ex-boyfriend nor her husband, Keith, have been charged, but investigators don’t believe the “super mom” of two acted alone, Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.
“I certainly wouldn’t be surprised,” Johnson said when asked of potential new charges against Papini or anyone else close to the case. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I suspect it. It’s gonna go to the grand jury, they’ll dole out the indictments that they feel is appropriate. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised, ‘cause she didn’t pull it off by herself and there’s other people involved.”
Johnson didn’t elaborate further, but said Papini’s “narcissist behavior” and “calculated deception” led authorities on numerous unnecessary searches, diverting attention from real emergencies.
“And that is the big problem,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of time, effort, resources, money [invested in the case] … Budgets are tight. So when we put all that effort into such a case and find out that things are not as they seem and we’ve been deceived and law enforcement has been duped, it’s really taxing on everybody.”
Papini, who remains held at the Sacramento County Jail ahead of a Tuesday detention hearing, has been charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and mail fraud in the scheme. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Federal prosecutors claim in court papers that Papini’s husband used approximately $8,212 of donations to an online fundraiser to find her to pay off some of his personal credit cards. The “Bring Sherri Home” GoFundMe page had raked in $49,070 altogether, prosecutors said.
Papini was also reimbursed more than $30,000 by a state compensation board based on her false kidnapping tale.
Papini’s family said in a statement last week that she and Keith Papini have cooperated with investigators, “despite repeated attempts” to pit them against each other.
“We are confused by several aspects of the charges and hope to get clarification in the coming days,” according to the statement released by Utah-based PR firm Intrepid.
Papini’s ex-boyfriend and former fiancé, who lived in Costa Mesa, picked her up in a rental car when she disappeared on Nov. 2, 2016 after they texted each other for weeks.
The ex — who is not identified by name in Papini’s 55-page criminal complaint — also admitted to dropping Papini off along a road weeks later in Woodland on Thanksgiving Day. She had a chain around her waist and bindings on her wrist and ankle, authorities said.
“I haven’t talked to her since then,” Papini’s ex told investigators, court documents show.
Prosecutors said during Papini’s first court appearance Friday that a grand jury indictment will likely be handed down later this month.
Papini’s attorney, Michael Borges, had asked that she be released as she awaits a grand jury indictment while citing unappetizing jail food, but a judge was unmoved.