A California mom is facing jail time for selling ceviche on Facebook after she was caught up in an undercover sting operation aimed at targeted unlicensed food sellers on social media, according to court recording.
Mariza Rueles, from Stockton, was contacted in December 2015 through a Facebook food sharing group by a person inquiring about buying her signature seafood ceviche – that prospective buyer turned out to be an undercover investigator for the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office.
Now, Rueles faces up to a year in jail on misdemeanor charges for selling food without a permit. In an interview with KTLA, the single mother of six said the prospect of going to jail for selling her ceviche was “unreal.”
She and other members of the Stockton community used the Facebook group 209 Food Spot to trade meals and on some occasions, if someone didn't have anything to trade, they may offer to purchase a dish.
“Somebody would be like, ‘oh, I don’t have anything to trade you but I’d love to buy a plate,’” Ruelas told KTLA.
Reulas and about a dozen others were charged in San Joaquin Superior Court, but she is the only person who didn’t take a plea deal offering three years probation.
Deputy District Attorney for San Joaquin County Kelly McDaniel, who is prosecuting Ruelas, told KTLA that “selling any food not subject to health department inspection puts whoever eats it in real danger.”
The DA’s office claims its investigation revealed the majority of group members were operating without a permit. The 209 Food Spot group currently has more than 10,000 members. Its group rules do not mention the need to obtain a permit before selling dishes.
McDaniel said that 209 Food Spot was issued a warning about sellers operating without permits before charges were issued against Ruelas and others.
BuzzFeed News contacted Facebook about Ruelas’s case and a spokesperson declined to comment.