LAS VEGAS – In the latest wrinkle in an increasingly strange case, the woman who claimed she found a fingertip in her bowl of Wendy's (search) chili last month has been arrested for grand larceny and attempted grand larceny.
"Clearly this has been a very unusual case from the very beginning," San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis said in a press conference Friday. He called it a "CSI-type of investigation."
When asked whether police considered Anna Ayala's (search) claim a hoax, San Jose Police Capt. Dave Keneller, a lead detective on the case, indicated that he did.
Davis said Wendy's franchises in Northern California have lost $2.5 million since Ayala claimed on March 22 that she bit down on 1 1/2 inches of a human finger when she was eating a bowl of the fast-food restaurant's chili.
"Indeed, what we have found is that thus far our evidence suggests the truest victims in this case are indeed the Wendy's owner, operators and employees here in San Jose," Davis said.
Ayala, 39, was taken into custody about 8:15 p.m. Thursday at her suburban Las Vegas home, according to Davis, and spent the night in a county jail. She was arrested on a warrant alleging grand larceny and attempted grand larceny.
The attempted grand larceny charge was for the Wendy's incident, according to Davis. He said the grand larceny allegation has no connection to the Wendy's case and instead stemmed from a 2002 incident in which Ayala allegedly tried to sell a mobile home in San Jose that she didn't own. The victim lost $11,000.
Ayala claimed that she bit down on the 1 1/2-inch fingertip in a bowl of chili she'd ordered at the fast food restaurant in San Jose.
The charge stemmed from San Jose police interviews with people who said Ayala described putting a finger in the chili, according to a person knowledgeable about the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The person said the interviews were with at least two people who did not know each other and independently told similar stories. Investigators apparently still did not know where the finger came from, according to the source.
Ayala has denied placing the finger in the chili.
"This just wasn't right," Denny Lynch, a senior vice president at Wendy's, told FOX News Friday.
There were few other details available about the case or the arrest.
"It's still under investigation," Keneller said.
Sales have dropped at franchises in Northern California, forcing layoffs and reduced hours, the company said. Wendy's (WEN) also has hired private investigators, set up a hotline for tips and offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to the finger's original owner.
"We're thrilled that an arrest has been made," Tom Mueller, president and chief operating officer of Wendy's North America, said in a statement.
Upon hearing about his mother's arrest, Ayala's 18-year-old son, Guadalupe Reyes, said he had gone to the store around 9 p.m. when he got a phone call from a friend who was back at the Las Vegas home.
"We rushed back and she was already gone," Reyes said.
Reyes said he had no other details and was waiting to hear from his mother. A handwritten sign on the door of her home Friday morning instructed reporters not to knock, and telephone messages were not returned.
Ayala was held overnight Thursday at the Clark County jail (search) in Las Vegas, where records showed she was being held without bail.
Ayala's claim that she found the fingertip, complete with a well-manicured nail, on March 22 initially drew sympathy.
But when police and health officials failed to find any missing digits among the workers involved in the restaurant's supply chain, suspicion fell on Ayala, and her story has become a late-night punch line.
Ayala hired a lawyer and filed a claim against the Wendy's franchise owner, Fresno-based JEM Management (search). But after police searched her home in Las Vegas and continued to question her family, she dropped the lawsuit threat, saying the whole situation was just too stressful.
As it turns out, Ayala has a litigious history. She has filed claims against several corporations, including a former employer and General Motors, though it is unclear from court records whether she received any money.
She said she got $30,000 from El Pollo Loco (search) after her 13-year-old daughter got sick at one of the chain's Las Vegas-area restaurants. But El Pollo Loco spokeswoman Julie Weeks said last week that the company reviewed Ayala's February 2004 claim and paid her nothing.
Earlier Thursday, Wendy's International Inc. announced it had ended its internal investigation, saying it could find no credible link between the finger and the restaurant chain.
All the employees at the San Jose store were found to have all their fingers, and no suppliers reported any hand or finger injuries, the company said.
Wendy's also announced that it would offer a free "Junior Frosty" this weekend to Bay Area customers in an attempt to draw people back to the chain.
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.