A California woman who hit the headlines earlier this week after claiming she faced up to two years in jail for selling ceviche on Facebook has been accused of blowing things out of proportion.
37-year-old Single mother of six Mariza Ruelas was caught selling her homemade food through a Facebook group made up of amateur chefs in her community. Members of “209 Food Spot,” named after Stockton’s area code, used the social network to swap recipes, organize potlucks, and occasionally sell dishes to each other.
What Ruelas didn’t know was that San Joaquin County investigators had been tracking the group's activities for more than a year by posing as members. After the law enforcement officials asked to buy food such as ceviche and chicken-stuffed avocados, Ruelas and five other members were charged with two misdemeanor counts of operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit.
The six members were offered a plea deal that would see each person complete 80 hours of community service and pay a $253 fine if they plead guilty. Ruelas was the only one not to accept, saying she didn’t want a misdemeanor on her record. She also claims to have been offered twice the community service time that was issued to other group members, and three years probation instead of one, though prosecutors deny this.
San Joaquin’s chief deputy DA Sherri Adams said the case is about health and safety. "If one person gets salmonella or E. coli and they die, then we’d be the first person they’d contact to say, ‘Why didn’t we do anything about this?’ she told the Los Angeles Times.
Ruelas said she faced up to two years in jail for selling the food, but Adams claims she is “making more of this than it is,” and would likely face “no more than 10 days in county jail” if convicted.
“I’m not exaggerating anything. I didn’t make more of it. I didn’t want to do this. I don’t deal with cameras too well,” Ruelas told TIME. “If it’s gotten this big, then people care.”
Ruelas’ case is now heading for trial.