OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - The Alameda County District Attorney's Office filed criminal charges Wednesday against a woman accused of selling food out of an Oakland restaurant without a health permit, despite a previous cease and desist order warning her to stop. 2 Investigates first reported that the same woman, Catherine Forbes, was already locked in a civil dispute over control of the restaurant with the property owner, who says Forbes has failed to pay rent and refuses to leave.
Landlord Patricia Bottom says her family has owned Vida's Fish Market on 14th Avenue in Oakland since 1981. Bottom says she allowed Forbes to lease the space in December, but has been unable to collect rent from Forbes since January.
"It's definitely devastating. She's just a freeloader," said Bottom about her tenant.
In Alameda County Court on Wednesday, an investigator served Forbes with a notice that criminal charges were being filed against her. Prosecutors accuse Forbes of two misdemeanors for opening and operating a food facility without a permit.
In January, the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health issued Forbes a cease and desist notice for selling food without a health permit. But according to the criminal complaint, an investigator was able to purchase food from Forbes at the Vida’s location four months later.
2 Investigates’ undercover cameras also recorded Forbes still selling food from the business in late May.
While the new charges are relatively minor, current and former landlords welcome the criminal action because they say previous attempts to hold Forbes accountable in civil court have been difficult.
Court records show three different business owners have sought to evict Forbes since 2010 and she's fought back in court.
"I'm not making excuses. I'm responsible for the things that I've done that are against the law," said Forbes, who didn't dispute the allegations of operating without a health permit.
But Forbes says her current landlord is the one who broke the terms of the lease at the restaurant.
"I entered into an agreement with Patricia (Bottom) in December to lease the space for 5 years," said Forbes. "She left the space and then she came back and took the space away from me."
The District Attorney's Office tells KTVU its investigation into Forbes is still ongoing. She's required to appear in court to answer the current charges next week.