Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., simply known as Cracker Barrel, is a Southern-themed restaurant and gift store chain in the United States. Dan Evins founded the company in 1969, with its first location in Lebanon, Tennessee. But did you know that the restaurant chain actually filed charges against a mother and son who tried to extort them?
A mother and son were convicted in 2006 of attempting to extort money from Cracker Barrel by claiming they found a dead mouse in the soup they had ordered. A necropsy revealed that the mouse had no soup in its lungs and had not been cooked, indicating that it was dropped into the soup after death.
The Mother’s Day Extortion
Employees at Cracker Barrel struggled financially following the May 2004 incident because customers avoided the restaurant. Carla Patterson and Ricky Patterson tried to extort money from Cracker Barrel for nearly four hours, according to the jury.
However, a jury in Newport News Circuit Court found the mother and son guilty of plotting a conspiracy that, if successful, would have netted the pair $500,000.
Carla Patterson and Ricky Patterson were convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit extortion after maintaining their innocence throughout the three-day trial. They faced up to ten years in prison, but the jury recommended that they both serve 12 months in jail and pay a $2,500 fine. The sentencing date was set for July 5, 2006.
Carla Patterson’s mother and other family members in the courtroom sobbed as the jury verdict was read. Patterson and her son both cried, and Patterson’s mother left the courtroom in tears, only to return later.
Carla and Ricky Patterson were found guilty of attempting to extort money from Cracker Barrel by claiming they discovered a dead mouse in a soup Carla Patterson ordered at the chain’s Newport News restaurant on Mother’s Day. (Source: Daily Press)
The Aftermath of the Attempted Extortion
Evidence, including a necropsy that revealed the mouse was not cooked and did not drown, led Cracker Barrel officials to suspect a scam, notably when the necropsy revealed the rodent died of a fractured skull.
The Pattersons denied any wrongdoing and claimed Cracker Barrel officials offered them money to make the bad publicity go away, rather than the other way around. The jury did not believe them. Cracker Barrel officials expressed satisfaction with the verdict.
It was a scam that hurt our employees who live here and who are good, hard-working people, They worked for 12 years to earn trust in this community, and it was compromised by a scam.Jim Taylor, Marketing Manager of Cracker Barrel
Taylor would not say how much money the scam cost the popular fast-food chain, but he did say the impact in Newport News was significant.
It was more than money. These people lost their dignity and their pride, and they’ve worked hard for two years to get it back.Jim Taylor, Marketing Manager of Cracker Barrel
According to Julie Wood, employee training coordinator for the Newport News restaurant and store, people began teasing the employees after news of a mouse being discovered in the restaurant’s vegetable soup spread. Some people called the restaurant to order mouse soup, while others inquired about mouse specials. Wood cried during her testimony as she recalled the events following the accusations. She claimed that even a few people brought plastic mice to the tables. (Source: Daily Press)
Image from SF Eater