Sherri Papini convicted of kidnapping fraud in 2016

Federal prosecutors said Papini should be sentenced to eight months in prison for carefully faking her own kidnapping.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A mother of two from Northern California was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for faking her own kidnapping so she could get back at a former boyfriend, prompting a three-week, multi-state search before she reappeared on Thanksgiving Day 2016

Sherri Papini, 40, pleaded guilty last spring under a plea deal that requires her to pay more than $300,000 in restitution.

RELATED: Sherri Papini pleads guilty to kidnapping fraud case

Probation officers and Papini’s lawyer had recommended that she spend a month in custody and seven months in supervised house arrest. But senior US District Judge William Shubb said he opted for an 18-month sentence to deter others.

The judge said he took into account the seriousness of the offense and “the sheer number of people involved”.

Papini, who was emotional throughout the proceedings, quietly replied, “Yes sir,” when the judge asked if she understood the verdict. Earlier, she was in tears as she made a statement in court accepting responsibility and admitting her guilt.

“As painful as it is,” Papini accepted her sentence as part of her recovery, defense attorney William Portanova said after the hearing.

Portanova previously said Papini was troubled and disgraced and that she should serve most of her sentence at home. However, prosecutors said it was imperative that she serve her entire sentence. The judge ordered her to report to jail on November 8th.

“Papini’s kidnapping scam was premeditated, well planned and elaborate,” prosecutors wrote in their court filings. And she was still falsely telling people she was kidnapped, months after pleading guilty in April to orchestrating the kidnapping and lying to the FBI about it, they wrote.

“The nation is watching the outcome of Papini’s sentencing hearing,” wrote Assistant US Attorneys Veronica Alegria and Shelley Weger. “The public needs to know that there will be more than a slap on the wrist when they commit financial fraud and provide false information to law enforcement, especially when such misrepresentation results in the expenditure of significant resources and implicates innocent people.”

“Outwardly sweet and affectionate, but capable of intense deceit… Ms. Papini’s chameleonic personalities drove her to covet family security and the freedom of youth,” Portanova wrote in his response to the court.

“In search of a nonsensical fantasy,” Portanova said, the married mother fled to a former boyfriend in Southern California, nearly 600 miles (966 kilometers) south of her home in Redding. He dropped her off Interstate 5 about 150 miles (240 kilometers) from her home after she said she wanted to go home.

Passers-by found her with shackles on her body, a swollen nose, a blurred “burn” on her right shoulder, bruises and rashes all over her body, ligature marks on her wrists and ankles, and burns on her left forearm. All of the injuries were self-inflicted and were intended to support her story that she had been kidnapped by two people at gunpoint Hispanic women while she was jogging.

RELATED: Sherri Papini’s husband files for divorce after being ‘traumatized by her disappearance’

The wounds are a manifestation of her “restless masochism” and her “self-imposed penance,” Portanova wrote. And when she started, “every lie required another lie.”

Prosecutors said Papini’s subterfuge harmed more than just herself and her family. “An entire community believed the scam and lived in fear that Hispanic women were roaming the streets abducting and selling women,” they wrote.

Prosecutors agreed to seek a lower-end conviction in exchange for Papini’s guilty plea. It was projected that the imprisonment would range from eight to 14 months, compared to the maximum of 25 years for the two charges.

She hasn’t provided any justification for her actions which is even baffling independent mental health experts who said her actions did not fit a typical diagnosis.

“Papini’s painful early years twisted and froze her in myriad ways,” Portanova said of pleading for house arrest. After their deception was finally exposed, he said: “It’s hard to imagine a more brutal public exposure of a person’s fractured inner self. At this point, the punishment is already intense and feels like a life sentence.”

But prosecutors said her “past trauma and mental health issues alone cannot account for all of her actions.”

“Papini’s planning for her dizzy kidnapping was meticulous and began months in advance – it wasn’t just in response to a traumatic childhood,” they wrote.

To she arrest MarchPapini received more than $30,000 in psychiatric care for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She billed the state Victims Compensation Fund for the treatment and now has to pay it back as part of her reparations.

As part of the plea agreement, she has agreed to reimburse law enforcement for more than $150,000 for the costs of finding her and her non-existent abductors and to repay the $128,000 she has received in disability payments since her return.

WATCH ON ABC10: Sherri Papini officially pleads guilty to lying to the FBI, mail fraud Sherri Papini convicted of kidnapping fraud in 2016

Laura Coffey

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