A mother from Stockton, California is facing jail time after using Facebook to trade home cooked meals for clothing, recipes, other meals, and sometimes just the cost of the ingredients. Undercover officials from San Joaquin County had been tracking Mariza Reulas, a single mother of 6, for more than a year before they made the arrest as she attempted to trade a bowl of homemade Ceviche. “It was just like unreal that they were saying you could face up to a year in jail,” Reulas told ABC News.
For the last few years Reulas has been an active participant in the Facebook food group known as 209 Food Spot. The group allows people in her area to met up, trade recipes and food, organize pot-luck dinners, and discuss the joy of cooking “Somebody would be like, ‘Oh I don’t have anything to trade you but I would love to buy a plate,’ like they’d be off of work,” Reulas said in an interview.
Last year a sting operative with San Joaquin County reached out to Reulas asking for her signature Ceviche. This lead to the arrest or citation of at least a dozen other members of 209 Food Spot. Reulas and the others could spend more than a year in jail for running a food business without a permit. “The purpose wasn’t to sell food,” Ruelas said. “We wanted to bring something positive to our community.”
The other members of the group accepted a plea deal offered by the District Attorney resulting in a $235 fine, 40 hours of community service, and one year probation. Reulas refused and is now headed to court where she could face serious jail time if found guilty. She can’t believe the amount of time an energy that was spent on her arrest. “They took the time to be investigating for over a year now,” she told The Washington Post. “But they can’t solve all these unsolved murders?”
District Attorney Kelly McDaniel responded in an interview with Fox News saying, “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.”