In the “be careful what you wish for” department, you may be hearing a lot less of that annoying ice cream truck melody as summer heats up. The big news on the soft frozen dessert front this week has been “Operation Meltdown,” in which, as the New York Times reports, dozens of ice cream truck vendors throughout New York City were busted for racking up $4.5 million in unpaid parking and traffic fines–and using a tricky shell game to avoid paying them.
According to NPR, the crackdown resulted in an order to seize 46 ice cream trucks; their operators had allegedly evaded 22,495 summonses and nearly $4.5 million in traffic violation fees. Investigators have said that owners cooked up dozens of shell companies between 2009 to 2017 to get out of paying tickets for violations that included running red lights, parking near fire hydrants, and blocking crosswalks.
The city filed a lawsuit last week accusing the truck owners of re-registering trucks at the DMV using names of non-existent corporations in order to “interfere with, thwart, hinder and delay the City’s collection of judgment,” according to court documents. When the Department of Finances came calling, they found that the debtors had no bank accounts and that any information traceable to the corporate defendants no longer existed. The city also served up images of ice cream trucks operating illegally in bus lanes and no-standing zones in front bustling landmarks like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The vendors whose trucks were towed were the ones with more than $10,000 in judgments or fines. Of the 46 worst offenders, 34 have already been seized.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the crackdown: “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. This seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors.”
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