May 14, 2005 in Nation/World

Police say finger in Wendy’s case was from friend

John Spano Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

Las Vegas Metro Police Department photos show Jaime Plascencia and his wife, Anna Ayala.
(Full-size photo)

The fingertip found in a bowl of chili came from a man who lost it in an industrial accident in December and gave it to the husband of the woman who claimed she found it at Wendy’s, San Jose, Calif., police announced Friday.

“The truth is beginning to be exposed,” said San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis.

Davis said tests have confirmed that the finger came from a friend of Anna Ayala’s husband.

“It was determined he had lost a portion of his finger in an industrial accident last year, and that he is an associate of Jaime Plascencia, the husband of Anna Ayala, the woman who claimed to have found a finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili,” Davis said Friday.

The tip that led to solving the bizarre case came from a national hotline set up by Wendy’s, which had contended from the beginning that the company was not responsible for the appearance of the finger in the bowl of chili.

“Based on the reported evidence, there can be no doubt that we are completely vindicated,” said Tom Mueller, Wendy’s president of North America operations.

Davis said his investigation has found the chain to be blameless.

The incident March 22 devastated Wendy’s sales in Northern California, and the chain offered a $100,000 reward. Mueller said that, “The pieces of the puzzle are coming together.”

“We are extremely proud of our employees and franchisees who have suffered the most, and we are forever grateful to our many customers who have supported us during this difficult time,” Mueller said.

Earlier this week, San Jose police had asked for help from Mexican law enforcement officials. Mexican police had searched a ranch north of Guadalajara on Monday that belonged to relatives of Ayala.

The 39-year-old Las Vegas woman is in a San Jose jail, accused of setting up the hoax in order to profit from the disclosure.

Despite her arrest, the biggest mystery remained: Where did the finger come from? No match of the 11/2-inch fingertip could be made to fingerprints in the FBI’s database.

Plascencia, 43, also was being held in San Jose on unrelated charges of failing to pay child support.

Ayala was charged with one count of attempted grand theft in the Wendy’s case and one count of grand theft for allegedly swindling $11,000 in a land sales transaction.

Davis said more charges might be filed in the Wendy’s case. He declined to identify the man who lost the finger.

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