Carlee Russell Fined $17,000 for Faking Her Own Kidnapping

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Hoover Police Department
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Hoover Police Department

The woman whose “kidnapping” sparked a nationwide search last summer pleaded guilty in district court to faking her disappearance in an Alabama courtroom on Thursday.

Carlee Russell, 26, pleaded guilty in Jefferson County Circuit Court to two misdemeanor charges for filing a bogus police report. Judge David Carpenter sentenced her to 12 months of supervised probation and ordered her to pay $17,000 in restitution to the city of Hoover and to complete 100 hours of community service.

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“It would be a waste of government resources to put you in jail,” he said.

Russell, speaking to the court, acknowledged the resources that officers already expended on her during the bogus search.

“I want to genuinely apologize for my actions, and the resulting negative impact inflicted onto others. I made a grave mistake while trying to fight through various emotional issues and stress,” she said. “I’m extremely remorseful for the panic, fear and various range of negative emotions that were experienced across the nation.”

In July 2023, Russell sparked a national panic when she disappeared shortly after alerting police officers about a toddler she’d seen wandering unattended near a highway. Two days later, she walked home and said she’d been abducted and forced into a car, repeating the lie about the missing toddler.

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But police arrested her days later, after being unable to verify Russell’s statements about her abduction and finding searches about AMBER alerts, bus tickets, and the movie Taken on her phone.

Two weeks after she “disappeared,” Russell admitted through her lawyer that she’d faked the whole thing.

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