Did Someone Actually Find A Human Finger In Wendy's Chili?

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but Wendy's might beg to differ. In 2005, the fast food chain was in the news for a gruesome incident that garnered the brand tons of press it almost certainly would have preferred not to have had. On March 22 of that year, a San Jose, California Wendy's customer named Anna Ayala was chowing down on a bowl of chili when she came across something that made her — and millions of people across the country — immediately lose her appetite. 

Ayala claimed that she had accidentally bitten into a 1 ½-inch piece of a partially cooked human ring finger, complete with a fingernail, that had been mixed inside her bowl of chili (via Snopes). Santa Clara County health officials confirmed that the object was indeed a human digit, although who it had belonged to or how it had ended up in the kitchen remained a mystery — even after Wendy's offered $50,000 to anyone who could help figure it out.

Understandably, the disgusting discovery turned a lot of people off the chain's Frostys and spicy chicken sandwiches. As a result, Wendy's lost an estimated $21 million worth of business, NBC reports. If the chain really was serving up cooked human body parts, that consequence might have been justified. However, the whole thing was a scam.

The finger was fraudulent

Suspicions over the incident's authenticity began to arise fairly soon after the body part was discovered, in part because Ayala quickly lawyered up after the story broke, per Snopes. Though she later announced she would not pursue litigation against Wendy's due to "great emotional distress," it was too late: Investigations found that she had a history of suing companies, including other fast food chains and General Motors, in pursuit of financial gain.

Further digging showed that the finger had not, in fact, come from any Wendy's employee. Rather, it belonged to a former co-worker of Ayala's husband, Jaime Plascencia, who had lost it in an industrial accident. The co-worker had given his finger to Plascencia to settle a $50 debt, per SFGATE. Ayala and Plascencia then concocted a plan to cook the finger, drop it into a bowl of Wendy's chili, and wrangle a sizable settlement from the chain. Both Ayala and her husband were arrested and pleaded guilty to attempted grand theft and conspiring to file a false claim. Ayala received a nine-year sentence for her attempt to scam Wendy's, while Plascencia was sentenced to a little longer than 12 years, says another SFGATE report. Though Ayala was released early on good behavior, according to NBC, she's never again allowed to visit Wendy's.