Cops busted a mob-linked drug ring that they claim was being run out of a Staten Island ice cream truck. They say that along with selling cold treats to neighborhood children, the ring was serving Oxycodone to loyal, addicted customers.
31 members of the extensive drug trafficking ring were busted. The takedown of the million dollar drug ring was called "Operation Bad Medicine."
They are accused of selling nearly 43,000 pills between July 2009 and June 2010.
Prosecutors say Louis Scala and Joseph Zaffuto were the ringleaders of the operation. Zaffuto was described as an addict and a Luchese crime family soldier.
They say the pair obtained fraudulent prescriptions through Nancy Wilkins, who worked as an office manager for a Manhattan orthopedic surgeon.
Zaffuto was a patient and met Wilkins during an office visit, according to prosecutors. They say Wilkins stole prescription pads from the office and sold the sheets to Scala and Zaffuto.
Scala an Zaffuto are alleged to have recruited dozens of individuals to take the stolen prescriptions to pharmacies and get them filled. These recruits, nearly all Staten Island residents, were paid in either cash or oxycodone. Many of the drug runners were relatives, friends or neighbors.
The pair often recruited individuals who were desperate for money or already had drug abuse problems. In some cases, multiple members of a single family or multiple households on the same block were involved in filling prescriptions.
To avoid attention, the operation only used small, independently owned pharmacies.
Prosecutors say as Scala made his regular rounds with his Lickety Split ice cream truck, he would stop on prearranged blocks where he knew his oxycodone customers would be waiting. One of the main spots was Zaffuto's block. They say it was an "open secret" that the truck would be there. After serving ice cream to children, adult pill customers would climb inside his truck and make their buy.
To attract buyers, highly addictive drugs were often initially given out for free. Once the customers were hooked, they were charged ever escalating prices.
The operation began to be uncovered in June when one of the runners Scala and Zaffuto used to fill prescriptions was investigated for a string of armed robberies at pharmacies.
Among the people charged are Scala's brother, his fiancée, and two uncles.
The ring might be a case of real-life immitating art.
In the 1981 movie, "Nice Dreams" Cheech and Chong run an ice cream truck named "Happy Herb's Nice Dreams." The ice cream is made out of experimental marijuana. And one of the missions in the video game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" was for the player to drive an ice cream truck and sell drugs to 50 people.
Updated: Thursday, 17 Mar 2011, 4:29 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 17 Mar 2011, 2:42 PM EDT
BY LUKE FUNK
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