New York City investigators have seized 46 ice cream trucks after their owner was accused of evading more than $4.5m (£3.55m) in fines since 2009.
Operation Meltdown targeted the operators of New York Ice Cream for allegedly violating thousands of traffic safety laws such as running red lights, parking near fire hydrants, and blocking pedestrian crossings.
Between 2009 and 2017 the vans accrued 22,000 tickets, but the owner Dimitrios Tsirkos avoided paying any fines by creating dozens of “shell” companies.
When the authorities tried to seize the vehicles for nonpayment, he allegedly dissolved the business and re-registered the vehicles under the names of newly formed companies.
The 46 vehicles seized each owe at least $10,000 (£7,884) in tickets, but the city’s Sheriff’s Office said at least 90 vehicles have unpaid summonses.
Mr Tsirkos has been accused of being involved in the unsavoury side of the ice cream business on more than one occasion.
He has been entangled in a long-running dispute with the Mister Softee ice cream company which began in 2013 when he opened a business called Master Softee, using a nearly identical logo on their trucks.
A court ruled against Mr Tsirkos in 2016, but since then his New York Ice Cream and Mister Softee have been engaged in what one investigator likened to a “mafia turf war” with drivers using intimidation to try to carve out the sweetest spots on the streets of the Big Apple.