HR Strange But True!
March 17, 2010

There's a strange workplace angle in the case of a woman who went to prison after pleading guilty to falsely reporting that she found a severed finger in her chili.

In 2005, a woman claimed that she discovered a severed finger in her chili at a fast-food restaurant in San Jose, CA. After she supposedly bit down on the finger while eating chili at the fast food restaurant, the woman showed the fingertip to other restaurant patrons and warned them to avoid the chili. She then retained an attorney and garnered a lot of publicity. The fast-food chain says it lost millions because of the bad publicity.

Investigators said the woman's story didn't add up. For example, they said an investigation determined that the condition of the finger was inconsistent with it having been cooked in chili at 170 degrees for three hours, which was the restaurant's method of preparing chili.

Prosecutors said she planted the finger, arguing that the woman's husband had purchased the finger from a co-worker who had severed it in a workplace accident at an asphalt plant. The price? $100.

Prosecutors alleged that the husband had told the co-worker “he was going to have his wife place the fingertip in some food” and later offered the co-worker a slice of any lawsuit proceeds in exchange for his silence.

Prosecutors charged the woman with false or fraudulent insurance claim and attempted grand theft. The woman pleaded guilty and served four years in prison. The woman told CBS-5 in California that other prisoners dubbed her the “finger lady.”

In addition to the prison sentence, the woman was ordered to pay restitution to the fast-food chain and hundreds of employees (who had their hours reduced after the woman made her claims). The husband also pleased guilty to charges related to the scheme and received a prison sentence.

Sources: San Jose Mercury News and CA Sixth District Court of Appeals

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