When a guy used a rat’s tail to get $5 million from McDonald’s
The crazy saga of social media exploding over a guy finding shrimp in his cereal box made me think back to a 90’s story involving a rat’s tail, McDonald’s and an extortion scheme.
But first, the cereal saga.
A writer and comic by the name of Jensen Karp didn’t know how Twitter would latch on to his weird story of finding an unwanted ingredient in his box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. When he was having breakfast he found two shrimp tails inside, mixed in. He took to Twitter to address the company.
There’s a hysterical story on this from Amy Kuperinsky on NJ.com. My favorite line is after the point in the story where General Mills denies they were shrimp tails and tries to say they were lumps of sugar. Karpinsky wrote “Karp and much of the tweeting public issued a collective “excuse me??””
The story got weirder. He then found baked in black spots that he worries was rodent excrement and is having tested, and swears his wife found dental floss too. Also it would appear with the mention of taped up bags that something had been opened possibly after having left the production facility, like possibly at a store. Who knows.
All this made me think of a long ago famous found-in-food story that happened right here in Jersey in the 90’s.
Michael Zanakis of Harding, New Jersey was at first quite a sympathetic figure when he took his 2-year-old son to a McDonald’s on Long Island. He made the news when he claimed he found a rat’s tail in his child’s French fries. The story was the boy bit into and swallowed part of the tail. He demanded money. Lots of money. He demanded $5 million. Now had he asked for 5 thousand or even 10 thousand maybe what happened next never would have happened. But instead McDonald’s became suspicious. Authorities investigated. It was learned that Zanakis was an associate professor at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Orange, NJ. There, it was learned, he had worked with lab rats. Rattus norvegicus was the species of rat, and it was then proven the tail was from this very species.
Prosecutors built their case. He was charged with multiple counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion. They proved their case to a jury that he took a rat tail from his job at the medical research facility, fried it, then sneaked it into the French fries. The jury convicted him. Zanakis was eventually sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Crazier still he also was convicted of tampering with a Coke can by putting grease in it then taking money from Coca-Cola to keep quiet.
Interesting side hustle.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.