Suing the restaurant chain can be finished in prison

A woman who claimed she found a severed finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili has been arrested after California police determined she carried out the hoax before threatening to sue the &to=http:// 21/97/384/12572_McDonalds.html ' target=_blank>restaurant chain.

The arrest capped a month-long drama that crimped sales at the No. 3 U.S. burger chain.

Anna Ayala, 39, was charged with one count of attempted grand theft related to Wendy's and a count of grand theft for a separate case in which police said she bilked a woman of her life savings. She could face about six years in prison if convicted.

Citing the continuing investigation, police declined to say where the severed finger came from and said a $100,000 reward for information was still on offer.

The saga began when Ayala said she bit down on the finger after spooning up a mouthful of chili at a Wendy's restaurant in San Jose, California, on March 22.

Her claim cost Wendy's restaurants about $2.5 million in lost business as customers stayed away from the burger chain's restaurants in the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>San Francisco Bay Area, police said. Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini declined to attach a dollar figure to the lost sales, saying the company would provide more details in its quarterly earnings announcement next week, informs Reuters.

The company plans to launch a marketing campaign and decided to offer free Frosties this weekend at its Bay area restaurants, Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch said.

"If you look at the facts, the police have conducted an investigation and filed charges and made an arrest. We believe that is a clear sign we have been vindicated," he said.

Ayala's claim that she found the well-manicured finger during her meal at a San Jose Wendy's initially drew sympathy. She hired a lawyer and filed a claim against the franchise owner, but dropped the lawsuit threat soon after suspicion fell on her.

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