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Police: Woman arrested in finger hoax

Police say she lied about finding a digit in her Wendy's chili

Wendy's International Incorporated
Anna Ayala

SAN JOSE, California (CNN) -- Police said Friday that a woman lied about finding a human finger in a bowl of chili last month at a Wendy's restaurant here.

They said Anna Ayala, 39, was arrested Thursday night at her home in Las Vegas, Nevada, on a charge of attempted grand theft in connection with the episode.

Ayala was also charged with grand theft in connection with an unrelated incident uncovered during the course of the Wendy's investigation. She is accused of bilking a woman out of $11,000 in a real estate transaction.

San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis said Ayala will be extradited to California.

Ayala filed a claim against Wendy's after she reported the finger in her chili, but she dropped it after police investigators obtained a search warrant for her home.

Police offered few details about what they called the hoax, however, saying the investigation was still in progress.

One question that remains: Where did the finger come from?

Police said Friday they are still trying to determine the answer, and investigators have concluded that Wendy's was not to blame.

"Thus far, our evidence suggests that the truest victims in this case are indeed the Wendy's owner, operators and employees here in San Jose, who have suffered financially throughout this investigation," Davis said.

Police said the attempted grand theft charge relates to the money that Wendy's lost when business dropped after the episode. The owner of the franchise where the finger was found, Joseph Desmond, called the incident a "nightmare."

"It's been really tough. When I heard of it, I just didn't believe that it could happen, because we have many, many guards against anything like this happening in our business," he said.

Desmond said some of the San Jose employees have had their hours cut back because business has been "down badly" since Ayala reported finding the finger March 22.

He pleaded, "Please come back to Wendy's."

After Ayala reported finding the finger, Wendy's launched an internal investigation, even checking its workers and employees of suppliers to see if anyone had lost a digit. But the company said it found nothing to explain how the finger got in the chili.

The company also offered a $50,000 reward, then doubled it to $100,000. Davis noted that the reward is still in place and urged anyone with information about the incident to contact police.

CNN's Rusty Dornin contributed to this report.

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