It could happen to YOU

Although admittedly, the chances are pretty slim.

“The caller to the Phoenix-area Taco Bell said he was a police officer and informed the manager there was a thief on the premises. Someone’s pocketbook was missing, the caller said, ordering that a female customer be detained and strip-searched in a back office.

“But there was no theft. Investigators believe the caller was an impersonator, possibly from north Florida, who has pulled the same stunt dozens of times nationwide since 1999 with alarming success.

“The caller, who sometimes poses as a company official, has persuaded managers at restaurants and other stores to detain and search employees for drugs or money. Targets have included Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Ruby Tuesday, Applebee’s, Perkins, and others.

“[T]he Taco Bell manager pulled aside a 17-year-old girl who roughly matched a description provided by the caller, Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio said. Told she would go to jail otherwise, the girl submitted to the search as the caller remained on the line to direct it.

“Indeed, a former Hardee’s assistant manager in Rapid City, S.D., was charged with kidnapping and second-degree rape after he allegedly detained and forced a female employee to strip at a caller’s urging in June. He was acquitted. The man’s attorney said he was the victim of a “freak who plays God.”

“And a Burger King manager in Odessa, Texas, was charged with illegal restraint and fined $500 for forcing a woman to strip at the direction of the caller.

“Because the incidents have been so varied and embarrassed restaurant officials are often reluctant to publicize them, police agencies didn’t note the connection until the past year or so.”

(via BoGlo/AP: “Strip-search hoax plagues fast-food outlets” by Mitch Stacy [April 10, 2004])