TIME Crime

Woman Facing Jail Time for Selling Ceviche on Facebook Is Overreacting, Prosecutor Says

Mariza Ruelas, a single mother of six, faces jail time for selling a plate of ceviche through a Facebook group.
Photo courtesy Mariza Ruelas Mariza Ruelas, a single mother of six, faces jail time for selling a plate of ceviche through a Facebook group.

"She’s making more of this than it is"

A California woman who faces jail time for selling ceviche on Facebook is blowing her plight out of proportion, a prosecutor said.

San Joaquin County Chief Deputy District Attorney Sherri Adams said Tuesday that Mariza Ruelas is “making more of this than it is” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not the big, bad D.A.’s office trying to take this woman down,” Adams said.

The prosecutor’s remarks came after Ruelas’ legal situation made national headlines. The 37-year-old single mother of six said she faces up to two years in jail after an undercover investigator caught her selling food through a Facebook group comprised of amateur chefs in the community.

Ruelas will go to trial over two misdemeanor citations for operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit on Dec. 2. Adams told the Times that Ruelas would likely get no “more than 10 days in county jail” for her crimes.

Still, Ruelas said Wednesday that her concerned reaction since being told in July that she violated health codes has been warranted. “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,” she told TIME. “If it’s gotten this big, then people care.”

The San Joaquin District Attorney’s office issued a statement Monday, saying the case is about health and safety “because of the possibility of foodborne illnesses that can arise from improper food-handling behaviors.”

“Such illnesses can be serious and even fatal,” the statement said.

Prosecutors also said Ruelas was initially offered a plea deal that included one-year informal probation and community service. Ruelas maintains that her offer was not as lenient.

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