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21/2 YEARS IN JAIL FOR RAT TALE
By Helen Peterson / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, April 19, 1998, 12:00 AM
An ex-Long Island scientist who cooked up a half-baked scheme to extort $5 million from McDonald’s by planting a fried rat’s tail in his son’s French fries was served with a 30-month sentence. Neurophysiologist Michael Zanakis, 44, was sentenced last Thursday by a Suffolk judge after a jury convicted him of fraud and extortion last December. Zanakis’ lawyer, Jeh Johnson, said his client was disappointed by the sentence and plans to appeal.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leonard Lato said that had the scam worked, it could have been devastating to McDonald’s and the Port Jefferson, L.I., franchise owner who sold the Happy Meal to Zanakis in 1996.
Prosecutors said Zanakis threatened to put his toddler on television holding the rat tail which came from an albino rat similar to those used in laboratories that Zanakis had access to as a researcher unless he was paid $5 million in hush money.
He also was convicted of scamming Coca-Cola out of $4,600 in 1993 after claiming he found greasy particles in a can of soda. Lato said Zanakis planted the grease himself. The day after the conviction, Zanakis was fired from his job.