These sprinkles were making them addicted! A Staten Island ice cream truck driver who doubled as an oxycodone peddler is at the center of a major bust announced today by NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan. After a nine month investigation dubbed "Operation Bad Medicine," prosecutors have announced indictments of 31 alleged members of an extensive drug trafficking ring that pumped nearly 43,000 pills worth $1 million onto the black market. There was money in the Lickety Split Truck, as the saying goes.
Louis Scala, the truck driver, would take turns selling ice cream to children and oxycodone to grown ups who waited for him at specially designated locations, prosecutors say. He was allegedly the ring-leader along with Joseph Zaffuto, who obtained fraudulent prescriptions through a third defendant, Nancy Wilkins, who worked for a Manhattan orthopedic surgeon. Wilkins met Zaffuto because he was a patient there, and she's accused of stealing prescription books, which Zaffuto and Scala would allegedly distribute to dozens of individuals, who would take the stolen prescriptions to pharmacies and get them filled. According to the indictment, these recruits, nearly all Staten Island residents, were paid in either cash or oxycodone.
The entire scheme began to unravel in June 2010 when one of the runners was implicated in a string of armed robberies at pharmacies in Brooklyn and Staten Island. One of the pharmacists recognized the robber as someone who had been turned away while trying to fill a suspicious prescription at his pharmacy on a prior occasion. The Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) investigator began sniffing around, and spotted a suspicious pattern of prescriptions being issued by the office. Each suspected ringleader faces up to eight years in prison.
"Today’s takedown should obliterate any delusions that prescription painkillers are safer and more respectable than so-called ‘street drugs,’" said Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, Jr. in a statement. “In many ways, this new trend of illegal drugs is no different than the crack epidemic that plagued our city in the 1990s: Both are highly addictive narcotics, both engender violent crime and both destroy lives and communities." And the bust is also familiar because of the means distribution: in 2007, an ice cream truck driver in Queens was arrested for selling cocaine, marijuana out of a Mr. Softee truck.