By Bruce Newman
Posted: 03/10/2010 05:30:35 PM PST
Updated: 03/10/2010 11:50:10 PM PST
She cooked it.
Say what you will about the half-baked scam perpetrated by Anna Ayala at a San Jose Wendy's five years ago, the finger she supposedly discovered in her chili was medium well-done. And no one would know that better than Ayala: She was the finger-food chef that day.
"I cooked it," Ayala said, making a clean breast of her crime for the first time in a televised interview with Joe Vazquez of CBS-5.
Ayala's attempt to shake down the fast-food chain attracted worldwide attention, forcing the San Jose Police Department to assign six investigators to the case and cost Wendy's an estimated $21 million in lost business. Ayala drove the wandering ring finger — severed weeks earlier in a workplace accident — to San Jose, then pretended she had just chomped down on it, warning other patrons to avoid the chili. A representative of the chain did not return a call seeking comment about the news that Ayala was at large again.
After serving a prison term of four years — one year for every remaining finger and opposable thumb on the harvested hand of Brian Rossiter, who was paid $100 for the severed digit that ended up in a Wendy's chili container — Ayala, 44, has been living in San Jose since last April. But as a condition of her parole, she has not returned to the scene of the crime.
"I'm banned from Wendy's," she said. "For life."
She gave Wendy's the finger, and now the fast food chain was giving it
When she and husband Jaime Plascencia pleaded guilty after their attempt to scam the fast-food chain, the plot's Julia Child took crucial details of the free-range finger fricassee to the slammer with her.
In her televised return to public life, Ayala said she and Plascencia — who is still in prison — were no longer a couple. She was reluctant at first to talk about how the finger found its way to Wendy's. "Put it all on the table for us," Vazquez insisted, apparently forgetting what happened the last time someone asked her to do that.
When Ayala made her startling admission that she cooked the fingertip in a pot of chili at her Las Vegas home, Vazquez demanded to know if she used her own recipe, or Wendy's. (Answer: Wendy's!)
Exhausted by her exertions in the kitchen, she immediately left for a vacation in Mexico.
"Did you have the finger with you in Mexico?" Vazquez asked hopefully.
But the fickle finger was in the freezer, awaiting its date with destiny. Ayala seemed dismayed that she had once handled the wayward fingertip so casually. "Nasty, sick," she said. "What was I thinking? Wow."
The thing that aggrieved her most obviously, however, was the name that the other cons hung on her in the penitentiary — which seems likely to follow her for the rest of her days. "They would call me the 'Finger Lady,' " she said sorrowfully. —‰'Oh, look, there goes the Finger Lady.' "
At least they called her a lady.
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