Hoaxers Get Nothing but Trouble Pepsi Finds Suspects, but No Tampering

Article excerpt

All through the great Pepsi tampering scare, authorities kept insisting on two things: There was no way for the cans to be tampered with, and people who made false reports would be prosecuted.

In both cases, they were right.

Not one of the hundreds of reports filed in June of syringes in soft drink cans turned out to be authentic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says. And an Associated Press check of the storytellers' fate shows that many of them are in big trouble.

According to the FDA, at least 39 storytellers in 20 states have been arrested, most for allegedly lying when they reported a consumer product had been tampered with. Eight have pleaded guilty, and seven more have trials or other court appearances this month.

The suspects include Ira Winston, 30, of St. Charles, who reported finding a needle and syringe in a can of Diet Pepsi bought at a gas station. He later admitted to police he'd found the hypodermic at a doctor's office and put it in the can. He was charged in June on a federal count of lying about a consumer product's safety.

And in one of the most widely reported cases, Katherine Wuerl, 30, of Milwaukee pleaded guilty July 29 to a federal charge of making a false statement alleging product tampering.

Formerly a telemarketer for the Milwaukee Sentinel and The Milwaukee Journal, Wuerl was drinking a can of Pepsi in the employee lounge when she said she'd found an insulin syringe in the can. A Sentinel reporter was nearby, and the newspaper ran Wuerl's claim on the front page. …