New York’s ‘Operation Meltdown’ Targets Ice Cream Truck Scheme

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I scream, you scream, New York officials scream for ice cream truck owners to stop scamming the city out of millions of dollars in fines.

An ice cream truck makes its way through the streets of Brooklyn, New York, in June 2007. On Wednesday, city officials announced they have begun to seize vehicles involved in an alleged scam to avoid nearly $4.5 million in traffic fines.

An ice cream truck makes its way through the streets of Brooklyn, New York, in June 2007. On Wednesday, city officials announced they have begun to seize vehicles involved in an alleged scam to avoid nearly $4.5 million in traffic fines.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced officials began seizing 46 ice cream trucks in a crackdown on operators who allegedly schemed for years to skirt 22,495 summonses and avoid paying nearly $4.5 million in traffic violation fees.

Investigators involved in Operation Meltdown said a group of owners conspired to create dozens of shell companies between 2009 to 2017 to escape paying tickets for a rainbow-sprinkle of violations, including running red lights, parking near fire hydrants and blocking crosswalks.

“We all know from common experience that ice cream trucks are magnets for children,” said Zachary W. Carter, the city’s corporation counsel. “In order to protect this particularly vulnerable category of pedestrians, our traffic laws must be strictly enforced.”

In a lawsuit filed last week, the city accused the truck owners of systematically re-registering trucks at the Department of Motor Vehicles under the names of various phony corporations. The rapid transfers of ownership “are intended to and do interfere with, thwart, hinder and delay the City’s collection of judgment,” the documents said.

When the Department of Finances tried to collect the debts officials found the debtors never had bank accounts, and any trace information to the corporate defendants no longer existed.

The city targeted what it called “the worst offenders” — people with more than $10,000 in judgments or fines.

“No New Yorker is above the law – especially those who try to ignore public safety laws and create dangerous situations for pedestrians, bikers and drivers,” de Blasio said. “This seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors.”

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