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Sherri Papini signs plea deal in California kidnapping hoax

Sherri Papini, the California “super mom” accused of orchestrating her own kidnapping in 2016 and triggered a nationwide search, has signed a plea deal, The Post has learned. 

Papini, who was facing up to 25 years if convicted of the charges of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and mail fraud, signed the agreement Tuesday morning in which she will plead guilty one count of mail fraud and one count of making a false statement, US Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said.

“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 in a statement to The Post provided through her attorney, William Portanova.

“I will work the rest of my life to make amends for what I have done.”

The court has yet to schedule a date when Papini will enter her guilty plea. She has been out on $120,000 bond.

It’s not clear how much time Papini will get, but she faces a maximum of five years behind bars on the count of making false statements and 20 years for the mail fraud charge, the Eastern District of California US Attorney’s office said.

Sherri Papini was facing up to 25 years in prison.
Andrew Seng/The Sacramento Bee/AP

“The actual sentence … will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables,” the office said in a statement.

Portanova, who took over the case in late March from Papini’s former defense attorney, Michael Borges, told the Sacramento Bee that the plea deal comes as they are “taking the case in an entirely new direction.”

“Everything that has happened before stops today,” said Portanova.

Papini, 39, of Redding, was arrested on March 3 after prosecutors said the mom of two lied when she told investigators that she was kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, and even provided a false description to an FBI sketch artist. 

She also told investigators the women beat her up, chopped up her blond hair and played mariachi music in the vehicle before she was finally set free on Thanksgiving in 2016.

Authorities said Papini made the whole thing up and was instead staying at an apartment in Costa Mesa, Calif. with her ex-boyfriend, James Reyes. 

Sherri Papini walks out from the Sacramento County Main Jail after granted bail.
Sherri Papini walks out from the Sacramento County Main Jail after granted bail.
Andri Tambunan for The New York Post

According to the complaint, an Honest Green Tea bottle found in a Costa Mesa trash can matched Reyes’s DNA collected from Papini’s clothing, which eventually helped officials determine she was with Reyes.

Cell phone records also indicated that Reyes exchanged text messages with Papini the morning she disappeared, prosecutors said in the criminal complaint.

Nether Reyes, nor Papini’s husband, Keith, have been charged. Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson said last month that he believed the “super mom” did not act alone.

“I certainly wouldn’t be surprised,” Johnson said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked on March 7 if 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.”

Sherri Papini
Sherri Papini was arrested on March 3 after prosecutors said that she lied when she told investigators that she was kidnapped at gunpoint.

Federal prosecutors claim in court papers that Papini’s husband used approximately $8,212 of donations to an online fundraiser 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.

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