A Las Vegas couple who made headlines around the world with a restaurant scam involving a human fingertip and a bowl of chilli were facing stiff prison terms at their sentencing hearing yesterday.
Anna Ayala and Jaime Plascencia have already admitted they were out to defraud the Wendy's restaurant chain when they visited a branch in San Jose, California, last March and later went on national television to recount the supposed horror of finding a human body part in their food.
Ayala gave a particularly dramatic account of vomiting in the Wendy's toilets after biting down on the finger, and then finding it impossible to eat or sleep for days on end afterwards. They filed a flurry of lawsuits, and remained in negotiations for a cash settlement right up to the moment of their arrest.
Both now acknowledge they bought the fingertip from a friend who lost it in an industrial accident and placed it in the bowl themselves. They have pleaded guilty to two felony accounts involving insurance fraud and attempted grand theft.
It also emerged that Ayala had a long history of attempted scams.
The police quickly established the fingertip had not been cooked with the chilli and failed to find any trace of vomit at the women's toilet at Wendy's.
For several weeks they searched for the owner of the missing fingertip, first checking the Wendy's employee roster and then homing in on the suspect couple's circle of acquaintances.
The fingertip's owner, Brian Rossiter, later admitted he had been offered $250,000 (£140,000) in anticipated legal gains to keep his mouth shut.During pre-trial custody, recordings of Ayala's phone calls also revealed her boasting to friends about the scam.