Restaurant Workers Strip-Searched in Hoax

ByABC News via logo
March 30, 2004, 8:51 PM

March 31 -- Restaurant managers across the country have been receiving strange phone calls from someone urging them to strip-search employees or customers to see if they have stolen property.

The latest incident occurred last week in Arizona, when a Taco Bell manager received a call from a man claiming to be a police officer who urged the manager to strip-search a female whom the caller said had stolen a pocketbook.

Authorities said the male manager pulled aside a 17-year-old female customer who fit the description given by the caller and then carried out the search, which included a body cavity search.

"We have a very bizarre situation occurring not only in Fountain Hills, Ariz., but across the nation, a very bizarre scheme," said Sheriff Joseph Arpaio of Marciopa County, Ariz. "My detectives are working full time on this investigation."

Investigators say that there have been dozens of similar cases going as far back as 1999, involving Burger King, Wendy's, Applebee's and other restaurants. In addition to Arizona, similar incidents involving both male and female managers conducting searches have been reported in Massachusetts, South Dakota, Indiana, Utah and Ohio.

No arrests have been made in connection with the calls in Arizona.

South Dakota Manager Acquitted

In Rapid City, S.D., a former fast-food restaurant manager was accused of holding a 19-year-old female employee against her will and forcing her to strip during a three-hour search in the restaurant's back office. Allan Mathis was acquitted last month of kidnapping and second-degree rape charges in connection with the June incident.

Mathis said that he was following the direction of someone on the telephone who claimed to be a police officer.

"I never wanted to be there, I never wanted to do it in the first place," Mathis said today on Good Morning America. "I was just doing what he told me to do."

Prosecutors said a videotape showed Mathis sexually assaulting the woman.