NEW YORK -- The city has seized dozens of ice cream trucks for their involvement in a scam to avoid paying millions of dollars in traffic fines.
Sheriff Joseph Fucito says the scam, called operation meltdown involved ice cream truck owners attempt to get out of paying tickets by transferring ownership of ice cream trucks among dozens of shell corporations.
"We saw a pattern of this retitling of the vehicles before parking tickets went into judgment. And we saw that it worked along the lines of parking tickets go into judgment every hundred and twenty days and during that period of time they would accumulate a significant amount of tickets," Fucito said. "But then before they went into judgment the vehicles were transferred."
The City's lawsuit targets the worst offenders--those with more than $10,000 in judgments or unpaid fines.
The order also requires the truck's owners to pay the City damages and prevents them from transferring the ownership of the vehicles that have outstanding parking summonses.
The Department of Finance's collection division of the attempted to collect this debt through traditional means of demand notices and information subpoenas to banks, but was unsuccessful.
The department found the truck woners never had bank accounts and any information to the corporate defendants no longer existed by the time the department attempted to reach them.
Sheriff Fucito say auditors and investigators determined that ice cream truck operators accrued 22,000 violations since 2009, including running red lights, parking at fire hydrants and blocking crosswalks had avoided paying nearly $4.5 million worth of summonses.
"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," said Mayor de Blasio. "For years, these owners have ignored public safety laws and have driven dangerously in one of the busiest areas of the city. This seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors."