New York City seizes 46 ice cream trucks in 'Operation Meltdown' for allegedly dodging millions in fines

PHOTO: Pedestrians buy ice cream from an ice cream truck parked in Battery Park during a heat wave in New York, June 18, 2018.PlayAnthony Behar/Sipa USA via Newscom, FILE
WATCH New York City seizes 46 ice cream trucks over unpaid fines

They serve up sweet summer treats, but the owners of some ice cream trucks allegedly had a scam going, according to authorities in New York City.

On Wednesday, officials announced the results of “Operation Meltdown,” in which 46 ice cream trucks in the city were targeted and impounded for allegedly taking part in larger scam that included 90 trucks dodging a total of $4.5 million in fines since 2009.

Each of the 46 trucks that were confiscated Wednesday owe at least $10,000 in parking or traffic tickets.

PHOTO: A Mister Softee ice cream truck in Midtown Manhattan in New York seen on April 10, 2010. Richard B. Levine/Newscom, FILE
A Mister Softee ice cream truck in Midtown Manhattan in New York seen on April 10, 2010.

"For years, these owners have ignored public safety laws and have driven dangerously in one of the busiest areas of the city," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "This seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors."

Between 2009 and 2017, some ice cream companies allegedly amassed 22,000 summonses for violations including running red lights, parking near fire hydrants and blocking pedestrian crosswalks, according to the city complaint.

Officials allege that those ice cream vendors systematically and repeatedly re-registered ice cream trucks with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles under the names of various shell corporations that didn’t have bank accounts, to avoid paying their debts.

"The city’s investigation has untangled this web of fraudulent transactions and the court has allowed us to take an initial step toward recovering the money owed to the city, with interest, and damages, and to permanently enjoin defendants from again putting profit over public safety,” Zach Carter from the New York City Corporation Counsel, which deals with the city’s legal affairs, said in a statement.

New York Ice Cream, which was named in the complaint, has been in a well-documented turf war with rival ice cream truck company Mister Softee. Their block-by-block battles has sometimes escalated to violence.