Woman in Wendy's Chili Finger Case Has Regrets

ByABC News via logo
January 19, 2006, 7:58 AM

Jan. 19, 2006 — -- The woman at the center of the Wendy's severed finger in the chili hoax said that she was sorry for the attempted scam and that her story should be a warning to others.

"Let this be an example," said Anna Ayala in an interview with ABC News affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco. "Everybody out there, all those young people, learn from this."

She was sentenced Wednesday to a maximum nine years in prison for conspiracy and grand theft.

Ayala and her husband, Jaime Plascencia, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to file a false insurance claim and attempted grand theft with damages exceeding $2.5 million. Plascencia received a sentence of more than 12 years for his role in the attempted scam.

Last March, Ayala generated national attention -- as well as plenty of bad publicity for Wendy's -- when she said that she had bit into a severed fingertip found in a bowl of Wendy's chili. Authorities suspected a hoax early in the investigation, partly because the finger wasn't cooked. Forensic tests later showed that Ayala had never chomped on the finger, and investigators determined Ayala's story was a fraud.

Further investigation found that the severed finger belonged to Brian Rossiter, a co-worker of Plascencia's who had lost the digit in a workplace accident. According to court documents, Plascencia bought Rossiter's fingertip for $100 and told him about what he and Ayala were planning. Rossiter claimed that he never knew about the scam and was never charged in the case. Police said Rossiter came forward and told them Plascencia and Ayala offered him $250,000 to keep quiet about the purchase of his fingertip.

After her sentencing, Ayala said the plot was her husband's idea. But she also suggested that Rossiter had more of a role in the plot and that he should be in jail with her and her husband.

"But he got away. He's a hero," Ayala said. "He should be back here with us, too."

Ayala said she was not surprised that she received the maximum sentence.

"I was expecting it. Obviously, I committed a crime, and I should pay for it, and I'm ready. I know I've hurt a lot of people."

Ayala admitted that she brought the finger into the Wendy's in San Jose, Calif., ordered the chili, and then pretended to spit it out. She said she and her husband never planned on specifically targeting Wendy's.

"It was there," she said. "It wasn't planned. It was just something that happened."

Wendy's said that it had lost $2.5 million in sales because of the bad publicity generated by the finger scandal and that dozens of employees at its Northern California restaurants had to be laid off. Ayala and Plascencia were ordered to pay nearly $21.8 million to Wendy's International and its owner, JEM Management. The companies agreed not to collect the money, provided the couple did not benefit financially from the story.

Ayala says that the scandal has changed her and that she plans to take classes while she is imprisoned.

"It's changed me, the way I think, the way I see the world," she said. "I see a bird fly and think it's freedom."

ABC News affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco contributed to this report.