Sherri Papini’s alleged kidnapping scam is a ‘slap in the face’ for Latinos: advocates
The elaborate hoax allegedly invented by California housewife Sherri Papini — who claimed two Hispanic women kidnapped her at gunpoint — is a “slap in the face” for all Latinos, lawyers told The Post on Friday.
Papini, 39, of Redding, Calif., was charged Thursday after making international headlines in late 2016 and sparking a three-week search. Authorities said her sensational story was actually pure fiction – which angered the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“Once again, we’re attacking and boxing Latinos and applying xenophobic and racist attitudes toward Latinos,” LULAC Texas director Rudy Rosales told the Post during an exclusive interview. “She perpetuates a negative stereotype of Latinos in general. This is unacceptable and shameful, frankly.”
Papini, who was reportedly staying with a former boyfriend the whole time, even gave FBI sketch artists a detailed description of her alleged attackers after she was found on Thanksgiving Day. She kept up the ploy until August 2020, when she was interviewed by a federal agent and a local detective, indictments show.
“And the fact that we keep buying these stories perpetuates the negative stereotype that Latinos are violent and unlawful,” Rosales said. “It’s really not justified. Latinos are doctors, lawyers, senators, and congressmen of the United States. It’s a slap in the face for all of us.”
Rosales said he was dismayed that the attractive blonde mother’s story had lasted so long.
“It’s heartbreaking that they continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes that are inherently wrong in their narrative,” Rosales said. “It speaks to the narrative that a person’s skin color can give them some privileges that would be denied to others.”
Papini’s “white privilege,” Rosales said, was instrumental in her false story being believed for so long.
“The bottom line is that words can hurt,” he said. “We have to talk to people about it.”
Papini, who has been charged with providing false information to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud, faces up to 25 years if convicted on both counts. She was reimbursed more than $30,000 by a state compensation agency for her false kidnapping story.
Rosales said Papini’s “egregious” actions – including alleged beatings and burning to make the kidnapping appear authentic – should amount to jail time.
“Justice must prevail,” said Rosales. “She has to pay.”
Papini should also be tasked with educating the public about the evils of fabricating bogus crimes and the potential harm to minorities across the country.
“She continued this scam,” Rosales said. “She should make amends to the community.”
But above all, said Rosales, Papini’s case should serve as a lesson.
“We really need to take this as a lesson in terms of the negative stereotypes that are perpetuated in the United States,” he said. “We all need to sit back and realize that we are all human. It’s time for America to reflect on itself and take a look at what this young lady has done.”
An online fundraiser started by Papini’s husband, Keith, also raised more than $49,000, which authorities said were used to pay for the couple’s credit cards and other personal expenses.
Papini, who remains incarcerated in California, is scheduled to appear in a Sacramento courtroom via Zoom on Friday afternoon. Court records did not list an attorney for her.
Papini’s complex alleged fraud also cost Shasta County over $150,000 in resources to investigate her “knowingly false claims and staged kidnappings,” Sheriff Michael Johnson said.
“Not only did this charade take valuable resources away from real criminal investigation matters, but at a time when serious human trafficking cases involving legitimate victims exist, Sherri Papini took advantage of this tragic societal phenomenon for notoriety and financial gain,” Johnson said in a statement Thursday.
The ensuing investigation also unfairly pushed county law enforcement officials onto a “national stage,” prompting scrutiny and public criticism, Johnson said.
“It took a long time,” Johnson said of Papini’s arrest.
Additional reporting by Marjorie Hernandez