January 18, 2006

Couple get 9 years prison for Wendy’s finger scam

SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - A California court
sentenced a couple to nine years in prison on Wednesday for
planting a severed human finger in a bowl of chili to swindle a
Wendy's fast food restaurant.

A judge in Santa Clara Superior Court sentenced Anna Ayala
and her husband, Jaime Plascencia, to nine years imprisonment
for their role in the Wendy's scam, which caused a sharp fall
in sales at the third-largest U.S. burger chain.

The husband was given another three years and four months
for not paying support for the five children he has with
another woman in an unrelated case, giving him a total sentence
of 12 years, four months behind bars.

Both received near the maximum possible punishment in their

"I am truly sorry. I owe Wendy's and its employees an
apology," a sobbing Ayala told the court. "Wendy's had always
been my family's favorite fast food restaurant."

She called her actions "a moment of poor judgment," and
told her family: "For all the shame I brought upon them I am
sorry, I am so sorry."

Ayala, 39, who had been a Las Vegas resident, had initially
claimed that she discovered the finger after buying the bowl of
chili last March. She hired a lawyer and complained publicly
about the experience, attracting wide attention to the
seemingly bizarre incident.

Investigators later determined Plascencia obtained the
piece of finger from a co-worker who had lost the top of a
finger in an industrial accident at a Las Vegas paving company.
The man had turned over the finger fragment to settle a $50

"I am extremely remorseful," said Plascencia, 43, who, like
his wife, wore prison garb to the hearing at which television
cameras were permitted.

Wendy's International, based in Dublin, Ohio, paid a
$100,000 reward for information to help establish the source of
the severed finger.

Company officials said it took Wendy's months to recover
from the bad publicity and lost millions of dollars in sales
because of the incident. At one point it gave away free ice
cream to try to lure customers back into its San Jose area