STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) - Sherri Papini, the Northern California woman accused of faking her own kidnapping was freed on bail Tuesday, and there was a big commotion as she left the Sacramento Courthouse.
Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that for the three weeks Papini was missing, she was in fact hiding out with an ex-boyfriend in Costa Mesa. According to the complaint, an Honest Honey Green Tea bottle found in a Costa Mesa trashcan matched unknown male DNA collected from Papini's clothing and eventually helped officials track down her whereabouts.
Though she was released from jail Tuesday, the Shasta County Sheriff said more charges could be coming, and an expert legal analyst said the evidence is strongly against Papini.
After a federal judge granted the 39-year-old Redding woman $120,000 bond, she was ushered out of a Sacramento jail by her family while photographers and reporters crowed around.
Papini ignored reporter questions and though her face was covered, it appeared that she was crying.
"She's in a ton of trouble, and this, to me, is a readily provable case," said Criminal Defense Lawyer Steve Meister.
Meister, a former prosecutor, said he doesn't expect a federal jury to show sympathy for Papini.
"Ultimately, the evidence against her is extremely strong. It's not just testimony from witnesses, it's all kinds of documentary evidence."
Arrested last Thursday, Papini was charged with lying to federal agents and defrauding the state's victim compensation fund by $30,000. Investigators said her 2016 story of being taken at gunpoint by two Hispanic women who beat and branded her was a lie. The FBI alleges that Papini was actually in Costa Mesa with her former boyfriend.
Authorities said the search for her not only occupied valuable resources, but cost taxpayers $230,000. Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson, speaking with "Inside Edition," said she may not be the only one in trouble.
"I definitely wouldn't be surprised if other people were charged in this charade, because there were other people in the know and there were other people involved," the sheriff said.
Federal prosecutors argued Papini was an extreme flight risk, but the judge ultimately sided with her attorney and released her to family.
As of now, the 39-year-old is the only facing charges, and if convicted, she faces up to 25 years in prison.
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