Thursday, May 19, 2005

Finger Food

News story today from America as reported in the Graun:

"Fast-food lovers across America reacted with collective disgust when they heard how Anna Ayala had spat out a two-centimetre human fingertip after tucking into a bowl of chilli in a northern California branch of Wendy's earlier this year. Ms Ayala threw up, and then, this being the US, she consulted a lawyer.

However, police soon suspected something was amiss in Ms Ayala's claims of victimhood. With Wendy's pleading innocence, the police began a nationwide hunt for the owner of the missing fingertip. Wendy's offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the short-fingered person.

Within a month, Ms Ayala stood accused of concocting the finger find in an attempt to extort money from the fast-food chain. Police arrested her at her Las Vegas home on charges of attempted grand theft, and this week added a conspiracy charge to the list. She has denied the charges.

Ms Ayala is accused of conspiring with her husband, James Plascencia, to force a settlement payment from Wendy's. Plascencia, 43, who has not been charged in the case, was arrested last month in Las Vegas on unrelated charges of failing to pay child support in a previous relationship.

But the fingertip itself, which forensics tests had confirmed as human, remained a riddle until last week, when the San Francisco Chronicle fingered him (sorry) as a nine-fingered former resident of a Las Vegas trailer park and acquaintance of James Plascencia. With no confirmation forthcoming from the police, Chronicle reporters rang the man's mother in Pennsylvania for a quote. In grand California tradition, they had struck gold.

The man worked with Mr Plascencia at a Las Vegas paving firm, his mother told reporters. She described her boy as a happy-go-lucky guy who lost his finger when his gloved hand was caught in a mechanical truck lift. According to his mother, her injured and cash-strapped son settled a $50 debt owed to Mr Plascencia by giving him the finger.

She denied her son knew anything of the alleged Wendy's plan. "It's like a man thing," she explained. "If a woman had her finger severed, she would never show it to anyone.""

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