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Mom-fluencer Who Falsely Claimed Her Kids Were Almost Abducted Gets Jail Time

Maybe this will convince other moms not to make outrageous claims on TikTok.

The Petaluma, California, “mom-fluencer” who claimed her kids were the victims of an attempted abduction in a Michael’s parking lot has been sentenced to 90 days’ jail time, 30 of which must actually be spent behind bars.

On December 7 of 2020 – yes, a day that will live in infamy — Katie Sorensen called the cops. She reported that she’d been shopping at the craft store with her kids, 1 and 4, when a couple seemed to focus on them, and followed her out to her car. She was certain the couple was going to snatch her kids.

The cops checked out the story and found it baseless.


Whereupon Sorensen took her story to social media with a video that garnered million of views. “Monday of this week, my children were the attempted targets of attempted kidnap, which is such a weird thing to even vocalize. But it happened. And I want to share that story with you, in an effort to raise awareness of what signs to look for.”

Darned if that isn’t exactly what she has done — raised awareness in a way I could only dream of! (And have.)

Here are the signs to look for…when you someone on social media is saying their kids were almost kidnapped but there’s no truth to the claims.


The signs?

1 – The kids were not kidnapped.

That’s it.

Oh. You want more? Okay — consider these:

* The main “evidence” is usually the mom’s spidey sense that something was wrong.

* Ancillary evidence includes the fact someone else was shopping at the store at the same time as the mom.

* Said person or persons looked at the mom and her kids.

* Often, the person(s) ended up in the same aisle as the mom and kids a second time.

* They proceeded to check out at about the same time.

* They had a car.


* They were of another ethnicity.


That was true in Sorensen’s case. She claimed the would-be snatchers “didn’t look necessarily clean cut.” She also said they’d actually tried to grab her stroller.

After her video went viral, she went on TV and told her tale again. At which point the cops re-opened the investigation, because she’d added so many details. This time they reviewed surveillance camera footage with her, and she identified a husband and wife — Sadie Vega-Martinez and Eddie Martinez — as the perps.

Police posted the couple’s photo and one of the Martinez’ five children saw it and said: Wait — is this you?

The couple cooperated with the police and once again the kidnapping case was closed. But the case against Sorensen was opened.


She was tried on three counts of falsely reporting a crime and convicted of one.

What we cannot know is whether Sorensen actually believed her kids were in peril, or if she did this for publicity. The fact is, so many moms are making these “Almost kidnapped/ sex-trafficked” videos that it can start to feel as if you really DO have to be on guard all the time. Which leads to more “My kid was almost kidnapped/ sex trafficked!”  videos, etc. etc.

Sorensen’s sentence may give some moms pause before they press “record.”

But if  anyone needs a further reality check, here are the words of David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, regarding stranger-danger on shopping expeditions: “Nobody is abducting 1- and 4-year-old kids into sex trafficking.”


4 Responses to Mom-fluencer Who Falsely Claimed Her Kids Were Almost Abducted Gets Jail Time

  1. Christopher Byrne July 2, 2023 at 2:29 pm #

    To take Finkelhor’s statement one step further: It’s highly unlikely that anyone wants your kids, period.

    If you are shopping at Michael’s for poster paints, construction paper, and flocking (or whatever), it’s a pretty safe bet that you don’t have the resources to be attractive to a kidnapper seeking ransom. Moreover, sex trafficking is a horrific crime, but the parking lot of a strip mall is a highly unlikely resource for such awful criminals. (I’ve always said, if you want a kid, go to the airport, there are hundreds running around unfettered and apparently unwatched. I”m kidding, and I don’t want a kid.)

    All humor aside, this speaks to a pernicious cultural phenomenon that has nothing to do with kids. It has to do with adults seeking fame as “influencers.” In this case, portraying oneself as a victim, playing on largely unfounded fears of Abduction from the Chain Store (my next thriller) is both cruel and cynical. The real victims here are the Martinez family and everyone who watched that video and had their cortisol levels raised by it.

    Of course, that’s the point…the sensationalism. I remember when the news was what HAD happened, not what ALMOST happened or COULD HAVE happened. In many respects, many privileged people in this country are so safe and so comfortable, that they fantasize danger perhaps for the stimulation and that cortisol response. In addition to being a supremely egotistical act, it demeans those who truly are suffering and who are victims.

    Perhaps Sorensen’s worst punishment is that, according to ABC News, she has to stay off social media for two years. Maybe that will give her time to take care of her own kids.

  2. Common sense July 3, 2023 at 9:13 am #

    Christopher…this many times over. What is the news saying, if it bleeds it leads? With the start of 24 hour news channels , they all compete for the bloodiest, ugliest scariest stores to grab your attention and keep you watching. For example, alder alerts. How many times have they flooded tv radio and your cell phone with abducted child alerts, only to find out days later it was a custodial dispute. You remember the alert, but usually don’t find this out. You are left thinking anyone can and will take your child. Does it very occasionally happen ? Yes. But with so many false alerts you start tuning them out. Keep them for the real abductions.

  3. Cyndi July 3, 2023 at 1:02 pm #

    I live in Petaluma and this case is big news here. I remember when Sorensen posted her fakery. A lot of local parents believed it. And even after it became obvious it was fake (just a day or two, tops), some still supported her, saying it *could* have happened. Or, like you did, that she *could* have been actually scared.

    You say we can’t know if Sorensen believed her own story. But we can. Because a court carefully looked at the evidence and found the story was a lie from the beginning. Anyone who looks at the evidence will conclude the same. It’s only people who hear part of the story who give the white lady the benefit of the doubt. I mean, after all, her conviction is literally for lying to police.

    Who doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt? Black people. Hispanic people. The Martinez family are valued members of our community and they suffered greatly from Sorensen’s lies. This couple are parents too. Their kids go to the same local schools as my kid. Yes, they’ve been vindicated, but accusations like that don’t just go away. This has been a nightmare for them.

    This was not just a “baseless” story. It was a fabrication. Sorensen’s intent was to boost her own social standing and she didn’t care who got hurt in the process. It’s not chance that she chose a couple of color to focus her lies on. This was not a scared mom who posted too quickly. It was a calculated move. Still not sure? Look at the court documents. Don’t make assumptions.

    By even hinting that Sorensen might have believed her own story, you are continuing that harm to the Martinez family. Indeed, to my entire community. What Sorensen did was vile. She played on the fears every parent has of something bad happening to their kids and she did it for likes.

    I urge you to change your reporting on this story and make it clear that what Sorensen did was a criminal act. Criminal from the very beginning. Don’t allow anyone to think that the Martinez’s were “scary” or “could of” anything. They are the parents who deserve our support.

  4. Kristi July 4, 2023 at 11:02 pm #

    You’re leaving out a lot of detail. I screen recorded it because I knew it was gonna be hot and likely removed. I was in shock that it happened in Petaluma but also, she was from Sonoma not Petaluma. She gave a very weird descriptives of what the people did, like a weird 2 steps back and 3 steps forward where they were holding hands, palm to palm, not fingers laced together. Just whacked out claims. And don’t forget how they talked about her as if she couldn’t hear them and that because her son is on the spectrum and can’t tolerate a mask, they said she must not love him so he would be better to take than her baby daughter with a mask. They bee lined past the line not purchasing anything and followed her (disproven on camera) and don’t forget the “hashtag save the children…” QAnon garbage which was never allowed in court.