In March 2005, Anna Ayala filed a claim against a Wendy's franchise owner in San Jose, Calif., asserting that she had found a fingertip in a bowl of chili. The bad publicity that resulted cost the fast-food chain approximately $21 million in lost sales and cut business at some northern California locations by as much as 50 percent. But authorities found no evidence of missing fingers at the accused restaurant or anywhere along Wendy's supply chain.
Suspicion soon turned on Ayala, who was eventually arrested and found guilty of attempting to extort money from Wendy's. She served four years of a nine-year sentence, and, as a condition of her probation, was banned from ever returning to the restaurant that she sued. And where did the finger come from? It was traced to Brian Rossiter, a co-worker of Ayala's husband, who lost it in a work accident and gave it to the couple to settle a $100 bet.