What to Know
- Forty-six ice cream trucks were seized from owners who allegedly amassed 22,000 traffic fines totaling about $4.5 million since 2009
- The city says these owners tried to evade paying the hefty debt by creating "shell" companies
- The alleged scheme took place from 2009 to 2017
Forty-six ice cream trucks were seized from owners who allegedly amassed 22,000 traffic fines totaling about $4.5 million since 2009 and evaded paying the hefty debt, according to New York City officials.
The seizure, known as "Operation Meltdown," comes after the truck owners allegedly amassed the traffic violation fines through a scheme in which dozens of "shell" companies were created to avoid enforcement efforts by the city's Department of Finance, according to the city's complaint.
The complaint alleges that the group operated companies that accrued 22,000 summonses for violations, including running red lights, parking near fire hydrants and blocking pedestrian crosswalks between 2009 and 2017.
The alleged scheme was based off a "periodic, systematic and repeated re-registration of the ice cream trucks with the State of New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles under the names of various shell corporations," the city said.
Subsequently, the Department of Finance attempted to collect the debt through demand notices and information subpoenas to banks, but was unsuccessful, according to city officials.
Allegedly, the Department found the debtors never had bank accounts, and any trace information to the owners no longer existed by the time the Department attempted to reach them.
The city’s lawsuit 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.
“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,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “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.”
Meanwhile, the city's Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter said in a statement that, since ice cream trucks are magnets for children, "our traffic laws must be strictly enforced."