Woman arrested in Wendy’s chili finger case and larcenous mobile home sale

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The woman claiming headlines for allegedly finding part of a human finger in her bowl of Wendy’s chili late last month, was arrested Thursday evening at 8:45pm at or near her home.

San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis, declaring the arrest was part of an ongoing investigation, said Anna Ayala was arrested and charged with one count of attempted grand theft in the Wendy’s incident, and one count of grand theft in an unrelated home purchase transaction. She is being held under a $500,000 arrest warrant.

Chief Rob Davis describes the case as a CSI-type operation where forensics studying the finger found it to be inconsistent with conditions it would have experienced if it were cooked at 170 degrees for 3 hours according to Wendy’s food preparation standards. The loss in sales due to negative publicity for the chain could range into the millions, a loss for which Ayala could be held criminally responsible. Davis said, “… evidence suggests that the truest victims in this case are the Wendy’s owner, operators and employees here in San Jose, who have suffered financially throughout this investigation.”

Prior to her arrest, Wendy’s had recently concluded its own internal investigation that turned up nothing to explain the source of the finger. The San Jose police, who have not accused Ayala, 39, of planting the finger herself, did search her home on April 6 for evidence relating to a possible hoax. There are no reports evidence was found.

She has a history of filing suits for financial settlements. Cases involve the El Pollo Loco chicken chain over a claim her daughter got sick, a sexual harassment suit against her former boss in 1998, and General Motors in 2000. A total of 13 lawsuits in California and Nevada had been filed.

There is an inconsistency in the Ayala account of finding the finger and claiming it caused her to vomit compared with police saying there was no vomit at the scene. One larceny charge concerns $11,000 from the sale of a mobile home owned by her live-in boyfriend.

The two combined charges, which could result in a possible 6-year prison term, are against the backdrop of the Wendy’s chain offering a reward for information to solve the case, which has cost the chain millions of sales.

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