SAN JOSE -- The infamous Chili Finger Lady is in hot water again, accused of cooking up another yarn that authorities find less than palatable.
Last time, the lie was about a severed finger. This time, prosecutors say, it's about a wounded ankle.
Anna Ayala, the woman behind the notorious 2005 hoax involving a segment of human finger strategically placed as an extortion-flavored ingredient in a bowl of fast-food chili, is again behind bars after being arrested Thursday on charges of being an accessory to a felony and filing a false police report.
The finger escapade was a weird scam that attracted worldwide attention -- an oddball plot by Ayala and her husband to bilk money out of Wendy's restaurants after her husband bought a dismembered ring finger for $100 from a co-worker who had lost it in an workplace accident. Even though they were exposed, the restaurant claimed to have lost $21 million because the stomach-turning tale sent customers elsewhere.
This time, Santa Clara County prosecutor Bret Wasley said her lie wasn't for financial gain, but rather to protect her son, whom police found suffering from a gunshot wound to the ankle in front of an Alviso home where he lived with his mom.
Guadalupe "Junior" Reyes has a previous burglary conviction, Wasley said, and is not allowed to possess a gun. He told officers he was approached by a pair and shot "for no rhyme or reason," Wasley said.
Mom backed up the story.
She gave vivid descriptions from head to toe: one assailant wore a black Oakland A's cap and Air Jordan sneakers. Another looked like someone known on the streets as "Cruz" -- a big man with a goatee and abnormally large ears who rolled up on a black bicycle. She even offered a possible last name.
Detectives came up with a match.
"I don't know if it was someone she knew who she described or how she came up with the description," Wasley said.
Ayala's attention to nonexistent detail is well documented. Back in her chili finger days, she regaled reporters with gross-out descriptions of the digit being "crunchy" when she bit into it.
Back then, solving the caper involved DNA testing and a tip from Las Vegas, where the man who actually lost his digit had worked with Ayala's husband.
This time, Ayala, who is now 47, and her 26-year-old son mucked up their stories when they revisited the matter for detectives, Wasley said.
"She backed off from her statements," Wasley said. "Junior changed his story into something unbelievable about him chasing after a dog."
Detectives tested the man identified as a possible shooter for gun shot residue; his wardrobe came up clean.
According to police reports, San Jose police Detective Nathaniel Braxton then confronted Reyes.
"I told Reyes that shooting yourself in the foot is not a crime, it's an accident, but making a false report is a crime," reads the statement. He then told Reyes that he suspected the tangled tale was weaved because he wasn't supposed to own a gun. That theory was confirmed.
"Yea," said Reyes, according to the report. "I shot myself."
Ayala wasn't as forthcoming; when confronted with the new information, she told Braxton, "I don't know nothing."
"I reminded Ayala that she went to prison for doing the same thing before," stated Braxton. "I asked Ayala where the gun was."
Ayala said, "There's no gun no more, it's done, thrown away."
She then told the detective that she'd given the gun back to its owner, a friend whom she didn't want to get involved.
"Ayala's statement confirms Reyes shot himself and she admitted to getting rid of the evidence," reads the report.
Ayala, who was released from prison in 2009 after serving four years, now faces a maximum sentence of another four. Her son, facing counts related to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, faces up to four years and eight months.
Both are being held on $21,000 bail each and are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
According to the detective's report, "Ayala's final statement was, 'I'm not going back to prison for something that has nothing to do with me.'"
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at firstname.lastname@example.org.