Trials & Litigation

46 ice cream trucks scooped up in 'Operation Meltdown;' mayor says it's 'the end of the road'

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As part of the appropriately named “Operation Meltdown,” New York City seized 46 ice cream trucks June 5 for thwarting parking enforcement measures and evading millions of dollars of imposed penalties.

The city alleges in a lawsuit filed May 30 against the owners of 76 ice cream trucks that the companies engaged in a shell game of vehicle transfers to avoid paying nearly $4.5 million in judgments on defaulted traffic summonses. Courthouse News Service has coverage.

“The defendants operate ice cream trucks in the most densely congested streets in New York City—midtown Manhattan—creating, for their own profit, unjustifiable risks to public safety by flouting traffic regulations while evading the financial consequences of doing business in that fashion by shuffling corporate assets,” according to the city’s complaint.

Between 2009 and 2017, the New York City issued 22,495 summonses to the defendants’ ice cream trucks, “all of which have gone into default,” according to the suit.

The defendants routinely transferred the ticketed trucks to “dummy corporate entities” for below-market sales prices in “collusive transactions,” according to the suit. While the defendants repeatedly transferred their trucks’ registrations, their vehicles were shielded from levy and seizure and “the numerous underlying summonses, on which defendants invariably default, go to judgment.”

“In stripping the judgment-debtor corporations of their sole asset—the trucks—the defendants intentionally thwart the city’s enforcement of the outstanding parking judgments,” the suit says.

As part of the lawsuit, New York City seeks an order authorizing the prejudgment attachment of the seized 46 ice cream trucks. According to the suit, the owners of these ice cream trucks each accumulated more than $10,000 in judgments or unpaid fines and accounted for more than 99% of the defendants’ parking debt.

“This seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told Courthouse News Service.

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