SHERRI Papini was arrested after police say a crucial clue on her sweatpants proved she had faked her own abduction.
DNA evidence on the clothing she was found in showed male DNA that did not match her alleged female abductors or her husband, according to officers investigating the case.
That contradicted the mom-of-two's version of events after she said she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women in 2016.
Shasta County Sheriff's Office Captain Brian Jackson told People: "Once we had the DNA, I knew we'd be able to find something.
"I just kept telling our guys and our ladies, be patient it's going to happen and we just kept pushing on."
Three years later and police say they determined that the DNA matched that of an ex-boyfriend of Papini.
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Investigators said they were then able to determine that Papini was with the ex – who hasn't been named – who was in on the ruse from the beginning.
The bogus kidnapping was reportedly plotted on pre-paid cell phones, an affidavit released by Talebert's office this week claims.
Described in the report as an "attention-hungry woman" who had numerous affairs, the ex told cops Papini had him to pick her up.
They then spent the next few weeks at his apartment, he is said to have confessed to cops.
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The ex-boyfriend also allegedly told police how he hired a rental car to drive her back to her family's neighborhood on Thanksgiving Day, 2016.
Papini, now 39, was arrested last Thursday.
She was released from a California jail earlier this week on a $120,000 bond and faces charges of charges including lying to federal agents about being kidnapped.
The mom-of-two had been found on Thanksgiving Day in 2016 after three weeks of searching in California and several nearby states.
She had bindings on her body and injuries including a swollen nose and a “brand” on her right shoulder.
Papini told authorities that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, providing descriptions to an FBI sketch artist along with extensive details of her purported abduction.
Authorities said she was actually staying with a former boyfriend nearly 600 miles away from her home in Orange County, in Southern California, and hurt herself to back up her false statements.
Prosecutors and the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office say Papini’s abduction hoax cost Shasta County, state and federal taxpayers, crime victims and donors more than $200,000.
In an interview with The Sun, Shasta County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson blasted Papini for wasting the more than half a decade of police time and resources that were spent investigating her "bogus claims."
Captain Jackson told People that Papini's arrest was a mixture of emotions.
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He added: "It's just all emotions because yes, you're excited that you've 'cracked the case,' but then you're also a little irritated because we didn't have to have this.
"It didn't have to go this route, didn't have to go this long if somebody would've just come forward and told us the truth in the beginning, and that's where the frustration comes in."
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