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Jury Finds Customer Put Rat Tail in Meal
Published: December 16, 1997
A New Jersey doctor was convicted yesterday of trying to extort $5 million from McDonald’s by planting a fried rat’s tail in a Happy Meal he bought for his son at one of the chain’s restaurants on Long Island.
The doctor, Michael F. Zanakis of Harding, N.J., took a rat’s tail from the medical research laboratory where he worked and placed it in a package of french fries he bought at a McDonald’s in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., on Jan. 15, 1996, Federal prosecutors said.
”He planted the tail and thought he would get away with it,” said Leonard Lato, an assistant United States attorney. ”The next day he was on the phone with McDonald’s. We had him on tape demanding money.”
A jury in Federal District Court in Hauppauge, N.Y., convicted Dr. Zanakis of mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion for the scheme.
Dr. Zanakis plans to appeal the verdict, according to his lawyer. He was freed pending his sentencing on Feb. 20, and faces a term of up to nearly five years in prison.
Dr. Zanakis was also convicted yesterday in a 1993 scheme to defraud the Coca-Cola Company and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company by telling them he swallowed ”small bits of greasy particles” from a can of Coca-Cola Classic.