Illegal Businesses Show Up During Valentines

FRESNO, Calif. During the week there are about 20 to 30 code enforcers checking city businesses to see if they are operating legally or illegally. However, this Valentines weekend there will only be three enforcers on the street due to budget cuts.

Valentines weekend is going to be tough for Ben Rush, a Fresno City Senior Code Enforcement Officer. Illegal businesses are popping up all over town selling balloons, bears and chocolates without the proper permits.

Rush and his team are busy explaining the rules to first time offenders rather than issuing citations that start at $200. "The goal of code of enforcement is more to educate rather than hammer people for revenue," he said.

But the biggest challenge facing code enforcers right now is the number of people illegally selling flowers in medians that arrive from other cities as far away as Los Angeles.

Rush said, "Guy in a van went over and hired a bunch of them, brought 'em up here, dropped them off at various street corners, gave 'em a bunch of roses and told him they would be back tonight to pick him up."

One illegal vendor we spoke with did not want to give her name but said she was unaware she was violating any city codes. "Right now that the crisis is the way it is, the economy. Everybody tries to see how they can get more money," she said.

Other vendors do follow the rules and purchase permits like this entrepreneur who calls himself 'Jock Shock.' "The way the economy is, nobody has a lot of money. This is one of the best things around right now," he said.

City officials said many of these vendors will not file this money in their taxes which hurts the local economy.

If you suspect a business of operating illegally you can call the City Code Enforcement Department At 621-CITY.

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