A man was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday for the 2015 abduction of a Vallejo woman in a bizarre case in which police initially falsely accused the woman and her boyfriend of making up the crime, federal prosecutors said.
Matthew Muller had pleaded guilty last September in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. He had faced a maximum sentence of life in prison, but as part of the plea deal with prosecutors, he faced no more than the 40-year sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The abduction occurred between 3 and 5 a.m. on March 23, 2015, when Muller broke into the home of a couple on Mare Island, threatened them with a stun gun and simulated firearm, and ordered them to lie still while he bound, blindfolded and drugged them, prosecutors said.
He then put the woman into the trunk of a car and drove her to his home in South Lake Tahoe, where he held her hostage for two days. Muller emailed ransom demands totaling $15,000 and sent recordings of the woman to news media, claiming he was part of a group of elite criminals, prosecutors said.
On March 25, the woman was released near her family’s home in Huntington Beach and Muller never collected any ransom money.
After the woman was found, Vallejo police held a news conference and accused the couple of lying and faking the kidnapping and demanded an apology from them for wasting police resources.
Despite the accusation, Dublin police and the FBI eventually connected Muller to the crime via a similar home invasion robbery in Dublin months later. In that case, a masked man broke into a couple’s home as they slept and tried to bind them, but they attacked him and chased him out of the house.
Dublin police learned of two other similar incidents in Mountain View and Palo Alto and after tracking him via a cellphone he left at the scene, they arrested him in South Lake Tahoe on June 8, 2015.
Investigators found evidence connecting him to the Vallejo kidnapping at his mother’s home, including a video with Muller, and the woman who was bound and blindfolded.
Vallejo police later apologized to the couple for calling the kidnapping a hoax. The couple filed a lawsuit against the department last year seeking damages for defamation, unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and false imprisonment. The suit is still pending.
Muller, a U.S. Marine from 1995 to 1999, has said he suffered from “Gulf War illness and problems with psychosis” and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008.
He attended Harvard University from 2003 to 2006 and earned a law degree, but was disbarred in Massachusetts in 2015.