The smell of French fry oil, searing hamburgers, and a hint of sugary soda – mix that with the loud chatter of customers, and it was business as usual for any Wendy’s in San Jose.
That is until one customer sat down with her try, opened up her chili, and screamed. “Don’t eat it!”
39-year-old Anna Ayala had all eyes on her. Shaking and horrified she ran to the counter with her cup.
It was the standard mix of beef, tomatoes, and beans doused in a red sauce. However, one larger-than-normal chunk stuck out. The staff tried to calm her, but when they saw the extra ingredient, everyone panicked.
It was a severed finger, about 4cm long – nail attached and everything.
There had been no screams of pain from the staff that day, so it couldn’t be theirs. But that didn’t matter. Customers frantically checked their own food for body parts and ran out of the building. Repulsed, Anna was ready to act.
The problems and confusing web of incidences had just started.
First, successful establishments are always ready to act when something goes very wrong, but they are also on the lookout for scammers trying to make a quick buck. The woman had suspiciously had a lawyer already prepared. She had also been involved in other lawsuits in the past.
Even so, Wendy’s had to follow procedure. Police were called to check the finger to see if it was real.
They also had their factories inspected and employees checked to see if anyone on their side was involved. Things seemed to be swaying their way until the tests came back. The finger really was human and not a prop.
Fingers pointed to something sinister, especially since lab technicians checked the tissue and found it was also … cooked.
However, tests say it was grilled (ew) rather than boiled at 170 degrees for three hours if it was to be the same consistency as the chili (double ew). Next was DNA.
In the meantime, the police didn’t wait. Circumstances pointed to Anna and possibly her husband, and they were brought into custody with plenty of screaming and resistance.
Rumors were also spreading that a missing, possibly dead, aunt might be involved. On their side, they insisted the arrest had been unnecessarily brutal. What about Wendy’s?
As you would expect, the news spread like wildfire – and it wasn’t just Wendy’s that suffered.
Other fast food chains, even smaller franchises, reported huge losses during the investigation. Everyone was too scared they might find something traumatizing in their food until the truth came out (which would be soon).
So far what police knew what this – the finger had no saliva on it (even though Anna said she nearly ate it).
She had also tried to sue Goodyear Tires (unsuccessfully) and El Pollo Loco of the Las Vegas area (successfully for $30,000 but involving her daughter and salmonella poisoning). Had the family jumped to murder?
Once police identified who the digit belonged to things unraveled very quickly.
It turned out the husband’s employee, Brian Paul Rossiter, had lost his finger in a construction accident. He owed them $50, but they said they would forgive the debt if they could keep it. So, what’s the sentence for something like this?
Aside from another charge of selling a vehicle that didn’t belong to her, The Ayala’s were charged with felony attempted grand larceny.
Anna got nine years while her husband got twelve years and four months. With all of this, you would think they had learned their lesson. But nope.
The fast food scam was just the tip of the iceberg.
She had been involved in around fifteen lawsuits – some of which settled out of court. It seemed that conning was her full-time profession. The system, however, allowed her out early and she returned to what was left of her family … for now.
Crime seemed to run in this family because in 2013 lies sprouted up again and the police came back. This time because her son was involved.
Being on parole, he was not allowed to be near guns. Lack of wits also seemed to run in the family because he shot himself and Anna lied to the police.
During questioning, the son cracked and gave up his mother.
Filing a false police report (saying two men shot her son) landed her another jail sentence. Currently, not much is known about what’s going on with the family. There are a few more interesting side notes…
The food fiasco had forced Wendy’s to do two things.
First, offer a $50,000 reward for information about the finger (this brought out a lot of crazy and false reports). They also had to actively market their brand to build back their reputation. One trick was offering free shakes with any purchase. So… feeling hungry?