Officials say Sherri Papini invented the story of California's 2016 abduction.

Papini's disappearance, as well as her story of being held under gunpoint and being branded, attracted widespread media attention.

Officials say Sherri Papini invented the story of California's 2016 abduction.

Sherri Papini was a California mother who vanished for several weeks in 2016, claiming she had been kidnapped at gunpoint. Authorities said that she made up the story and was staying with an ex-boyfriend.

Papini, now 39 years old, was charged with lying to investigators when they were presented with evidence of the kidnapping and defrauding California of more than $30,000 of victim assistance money.

Papini disappeared in Northern California in November 2016. This triggered a national search that included the FBI.

Three weeks later, she was discovered along Interstate 5 in rural Yolo County with a chain around the waist and a "brand," on her shoulder, which she claimed was an infliction by her captors.

Phillip A. Talbert (U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of California) stated that "finally, the investigation revealed there was no kidnapping." He stated that "countless hours" were expended not only in the search for her but also for her purported abductors.

According to the prosecutor's office, Papini is facing charges of mail fraud and making false statements to law enforcement.

Chris Thomas, a representative of the Papini families, stated in a statement that her family supports her.

The statement stated that Sherri is loved and appalled by how law enforcement entrapped her in a dramatic, unnecessary way in front of her children.

"Sherri would have complied if asked and she would have come to the station as she has done many times before. This could have been handled in an appropriate manner. Sherri and Keith cooperated with law enforcement's requests, despite multiple attempts to pit them against one another, empty threats of public embarrassment and other less than professional conduct. We are still confused by many aspects of these charges and will seek clarification over the next few days.

Papini's relative Dorina Graeff said Friday that she supports her "favorite nephew."

"She is a beautiful, special person and I support her."

Graeff declined to comment further.

Thursday saw Papini in custody. Online federal court records did not include her case. It was unclear if Papini had an attorney who could speak for her.

Papini, a Redding resident, was reported missing in November 2016, after she failed pick up her children from daycare. Her cell phone and earbuds had been found at an intersection. She was last seen running in her neighborhood.

She was discovered on Nov. 24, 2016 along I-5 with injuries which authorities now believe were self-inflicted.

Investigators questioned her and found two Hispanic women holding a handgun that kept her captive. They searched for the people involved and hired an FBI sketch artist to help them.

According to the affidavit, investigators found DNA on Papini’s clothing in 2020. The data was routinely checked and put into a database.

The ex-boyfriend claimed that Papini had asked for his help and wanted to escape. He agreed to drive her to Redding and she stayed with him in Costa Mesa, Los Angeles, throughout the entire time, the FBI agent wrote.

According to the affidavit, the ex claimed that he did not know "what their final plan was" or whether they would get back together.

Papini asked him once to brand her, which he did using a wood-burning device. She eventually asked to be driven home to Northern California, it states.

Investigators claim that the ex-boyfriend was able to corroborate the story with phone records and car rental receipts, and knew details that were not available to the public.

According to the affidavit, the ex-boyfriend said that he thought he was helping a friend at first, but then he became worried after hearing about the kidnapping claims.

The document states that he decided not to make any phone calls but assumed that if the truth were discovered, police would contact him and he would cooperate.

Thursday's announcement did not include any charges against anyone in the case.

Investigators interviewed Papini once more in August 2020. She repeated her story about women and guns, and when confronted, she denied that she had stayed with her ex.

"All those involved in this investigation had the same goal: to discover the truth about what occurred on Nov. 2, 2016, with Sherri Papini, and who was responsible," Shasta County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson stated in Thursday's statement.

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