SAN JOSE, Calif. – A woman accused of lying about finding a human finger in a bowl of Wendy's (search) chili was charged Wednesday with conspiracy to commit fraud, adding to the theft counts she already faces.
Meanwhile, a woman provided more details about how the finger may have been lost. She said her son lost the finger in a work accident and gave it to the suspect's husband to settle a $50 debt.
"My son is the victim in this," Brenda Shouey (search) told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I believe he got caught in something, and he didn't understand what was going on."
Anna Ayala (search), 39, who already faces attempted grand larceny and grand larceny charges, told police she discovered the fingertip March 22 while dining with family at a Wendy's in San Jose. Police arrested her and accused her of making up the story to extort money from the fast-food chain.
Prosecutor David Boyd added the conspiracy charge during a hearing Wednesday, saying Ayala "conspired with her husband and possibly others to commit a crime that involves manipulation, lies and most importantly deceit for no other reason than to line her own pockets."
Ayala had hired an attorney following her alleged discovery, but a lawsuit was never filed.
Defense attorney Frank Cole declined to discuss details of the case Wednesday.
If convicted on all three counts, Ayala faces nearly 10 years in prison and may have to reimburse Wendy's, which claims to have lost at least $2.5 million in sales and laid off dozens of employees in northern California because of the incident.
San Jose police announced last week the finger was obtained from an associate of James Plascencia, Ayala's husband, but they have refused to identify him because he is cooperating in the investigation. Police did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment on Shouey's comments.
Plascencia, 43, was arrested last month on unrelated charges of failing to pay child support in a previous relationship. He has not been charged in the Wendy's case, but documents filed Wednesday by San Jose police detailed his alleged involvement.
After his co-worker severed the tip of his finger in December, Plascencia bought it and "advised that he intended to use the finger to create a lawsuit by planting the finger in food at an undisclosed restaurant," a police affidavit said.
Shouey said her son, Brian Paul Rossiter, 36, of Las Vegas, lost part of his finger when his gloved hand was caught in a mechanical truck lift at a paving company where he worked with Plascencia.
Shouey said her son had showed the severed finger to co-workers in a macho display of humor and was desperate for cash when he gave it away "to this character, James."
"My son is a happy-go-lucky guy. He thought it was cute to show" the severed finger, Shouey said. "It's like a man thing."
Also Wednesday, a judge refused to reduce the $500,000 bail set for Ayala, who was arrested April 21.
Cole called the bail amount "excessive," but the prosecutor said he considered Ayala a flight risk since she has family in Mexico.