Mariza Ruelas joined a Facebook group called 209 Food Spot, a group of people dedicated to swapping recipes, meeting up for potluck lunches, and cooking for one another. Sometimes, members would ask for someone to cook a dish that they had been craving, and would reimburse whomever made the dish for the cost of ingredients if they didn’t have time to make a meal to trade. Usually, it was someone who would stop by after work, excited for their favorite meal…but this time, Ruelas opened the door and faced an undercover officer in a sting operation. She is worried about what will happen to her six children if she goes to jail, as they have no father.
For over a year, San Joaquin County had been investigating the Facebook group, warning them that operating a business without a permit was illegal. At least a dozen other members of the group were cited or arrested during the investigation.
Other members accepted plea deals of three years probation, community service, and hefty fines, but Ruelas is fighting it.
The purpose wasn’t to sell food,” Ruelas said. “We wanted to bring something positive to our community.”
Ruelas headed to court where she could face serious jail time if found guilty. She wants to know why so much effort was put into chasing down members of a Facebook group that cooked for each other instead of spending all that tax money to solve murders and catch actual criminals.
I don’t write the laws, I enforce them. And the Legislature has felt that this is a crime. Food prepared in a facility that does not inspect it creates a risk to the public.” District Attorney Kelly McDaniel said in a phone interview.
Ruelas has been given donations by people who support her, and she plans to open up a restaurant after everything.
Do you think this was a good use of the city’s resources, or should they have given her a harsher punishment?
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