There are plenty of ways to score free and discounted meals when dining out — but we certainly don't recommend this method.
Surveillance video from an Italian restaurant in Stuart, Florida has led to the arrest of a Florida woman who confessed to inserting glass shards into her own restaurant food to get free meals.
In late September, Kaitlyn Murphy, 31, dined at 11 restaurants in Stuart, ordered and ate (most of) her food, and "just as she was finishing the meals, she claimed there was glass in her food," according to the arrest affidavit from the Stuart Police Department.
Stuart, which has a population of just 16,000 people, is a pretty tight-knit community and word spread quickly about Murphy's alleged scam. A break in the case came from surveillance footage of the suspect exiting Luna Italian Restaurant after dining at the eatery this fall.
"It's a great garlic-knot place — a longtime establishment. A great place to grab a slice," Jeffrey Kittredge, public information officer for the Stuart Police Department in Stuart told TODAY Food.
After Detective Sergeant Heather Rothe posted a still image from the surveillance footage on social media, a tip came in that led to Murphy's arrest.
A manager of another nearby restaurant in Stuart, Duffy's Sport Grill, was also able to identify Murphy from the footage because the restaurant had just hired Murphy — and she was just days away from starting a job there, according to the affidavit.
Murphy turned herself in to the police station on Oct. 3, and "admitted post Miranda to placing glass in her meals and purposely cutting her mouth."
When police questioned Murphy, she produced glass shards from her purse, which matched those found at yet another area restaurant called Fresh Catch. Murphy allegedly said that she "did not have the money for food" and "had quit alcohol and drugs and she needed to replace that behavior with another destructive behavior," according to sworn statements by witnesses in the affidavit.
But Murphy's actions cost the victimized restaurants more than just the comped meals.
After she dined at Bono's restaurant, where she put glass into her own chicken wings, for example, the management threw out an entire case of wings, a $100 value, thinking the entire poultry supply was contaminated, according to the affidavit.
Yet another eatery, Carmela's, gave Murphy a $50 gift card as a good-will gesture, after she "found" planted glass in her meal there. And Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza comped her with a free margarita on top of her meal. However, staffers were dumbfounded as to how any glass even ended up in the meal since that particular restaurant does not keep glassware in the kitchen area and they even use plastic drinking cups in the dining room.
Murphy was charged on Oct. 3 with scheme to defraud, which is a felony and is currently out on a $5,000 bond. It has not yet been decided whether the case will go to trial.
While this isn't the first known incident of people trying to scam restaurants for a free lunch — claiming to have found a hair in a meal or some other foreign object — Officer Kittredge told TODAY Food that Murphy's is the most extreme case he can remember in his 26 years on the job.
"She had blood on her lips," he said. "This is taking it way to the next level."