You never know what's going to get you in trouble on the Internet these days.
When single mother of six Mariza Ruelas joined the Facebook group 209 Food Spot in 2014, she probably didn't anticipate that her involvement on the food-centric forum would result in a possible jail sentence -- but that's exactly what happened.
According to The Washington Post, the Facebook group is for local residents to exchange recipes and have potluck meet-ups. Every so often, Ruelas would swap one of her homemade dishes for somebody else's. Everything seemed to be going fine, until one day in October 2015, when a member of the group asked Ruelas if they could buy her signature ceviche dish from her.
Ruelas agreed, not realizing that the member in question was actually an undercover investigator. If you're wondering why in the world somebody would spend their time trolling a foodie Facebook group, it's because most members apparently did not have permits to serve food.
Ruelas received a court summons in July; she, along with several other members of the Facebook group, were facing citations for two misdemeanors: operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit.
While a few members accepted a plea deal resulting in a $235 fine, 40 hours of community service and a year of probation, Ruelas was offered a lesser deal; for some reason, she would have to face twice the community service and an additional two years of probation.
She didn't accept the deal and now faces up to a year in jail for her ceviche dealings.
"We didn’t see any harm in [selling and exchanging meals through the group]," Ruelas told The Washington Post. "There wasn’t anybody selling it daily. A lot of times, they were just getting back what they put into the ingredients."
Deputy district attorney Kelly McDaniel said members of the Facebook group were warned before the charges were filed.
"The purpose wasn’t to sell food," Ruelas said. "We wanted to bring something positive to our community."
"They took the time to be investigating for over a year now ... but they can’t solve all these unsolved murders?" she added.
Ruelas and her six children are now anxiously awaiting the trial.