New York City is seizing 46 ice cream trucks over $4.5 million worth of unpaid fines from traffic violations, in what officials say was a scheme involving a "small group" of individuals who used shell companies to avoid paying the tickets.
What are the details?
Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announced the success of "Operation Meltdown" on Wednesday, saying it had busted the offenders and accused them of dodging fines for violations dating as far back as 2009. In all, the unnamed operators racked up 22,000 summonses for violations "including running red lights, parking near fire hydrants, and blocking pedestrian crosswalks."
Instead of paying their accrued fines, The Hill reported, the accused ice cream truck owners would allegedly reregister their vehicles with the state under the names of different sham businesses and head back out onto the streets.
According to the Daily Mail, more than 80 defendants were named in the city's lawsuit seeking collections.
"We all know from common experience that ice cream trucks are magnets for children," Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter explained. "In order to protect this particularly vulnerable category of pedestrians, our traffic laws must be strictly enforced."
Carter added, "The city's investigation has untangled this web of fraudulent transactions and the court has allowed us to take an initial step towards recovering the money owed to the city, with interest, and damages, and to permanently enjoin defendants from again putting profit over public safety."
The city noted that only the worst ticket-dodgers — those who amass more than $10,000 in fines — are pursued beyond the traditional means of issuing demand notices or handing out subpoenas to banks.
The Mail reported that as of Wednesday morning, 34 of the 46 trucks had already been impounded, and officials were on the hunt for the remaining dozen still on the loose.
De Blasio — who is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination — weighed in on the crackdown, saying, "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."
He continued, "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."