An entrepreneur sells ceviche on Facebook, so now she faces jail time

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Facebook really is a great place for entrepreneurs. So much so that the social media giant claims there are more than 40 million active small business pages as of mid-2015 and frequently runs special campaigns and promotions geared towards helping entrepreneurs grow.

But please…just don’t sell your homemade ceviche there.

That’s what one entrepreneur tried to do. In this report from Los Angeles’ KTLA television station Mariza Reulas, a single mother of six, joined a food group on Facebook where people from her local area shared recipes, organized potlucks and “occasionally sold what they cooked.” Sensing a chance to make a few bucks Reulas apparently sold her delicious ceviche. Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, not to local law enforcement authorities who, after finding out about the alleged transactions, slapped her with a citation for selling “illegal substances” and then threatened her with jail time.

“It was just like unreal that they were saying you could face up to a year in jail,” Reulas told the network.

Was the ceviche that bad? Not fresh enough? Over-marinated? Too…fishy? Nope. It’s just that people can’t go on Facebook and sell food without a permit. There are rules, gosh darn it. And one very dedicated undercover investigator was on an official “sting” to find those scofflaws unlawfully selling ceviche, cookies, and other food on Facebook and bring those miscreants to justice in order that society can be saved. Reulas was one of 12 caught in the operation.

The San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kelly McDaniel defended the actions. According to the KTLA report, she says selling any food “not subject to health department inspection puts whoever eats it in real danger, not to mention it undercuts business owners who do get permits to make their food.”  Warning letters were sent to the food group but clearly weren’t heeded by all.

Even though the ordeal is having an effect on her children, Reulas is refusing to back down from the fight or plea for probation. Now she’s facing real jail time. Just be careful entrepreneurs – you never know when the government is watching.

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