(CBS/WCBS) NEW YORK - Thirty-one people were arrested and charged with selling $1 million worth of oxycodone pills out of an ice cream truck on Staten Island in what police have called "Operation Bad Medicine."
"After serving ice cream to the children, (Louis) Scala would invite the pill customers, typically waiting in their nearby car, to step into his truck to complete their transaction," special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan explained to CBS affiliate WCBS.
Delicious treats - and dangerous drugs - were both sold, police said, out of Louis Scala's Lickety Split truck as it visited an upscale neighborhood in the Charleston section of Staten Island, allegedly peddling thousands of oxycodone pills, in just one year, according to the station.
Oxycodone, a prescription painkiller, has become so popular that the number of prescriptions filled in New York City doubled between 2007 and 2010 to more than one million.
"We are equating this now to the epidemic that we saw when crack cocaine was first introduced in New York City," Staten Island district attorney Dan Donovan told WCBS.
Prosecutors say the crime ring took advantage of that skyrocketing demand, luring in new customers by offering oxycodone at bargain rates before increasing the prices once the customers were hooked.
Nancy Wilkins is accused of stealing prescription pads from the Manhattan doctor's office where she worked and selling them to Scala and Joseph Zaffuto.
Brennan said Scala and Zaffuto allegedly turned to family and close friends while recruiting two dozen "runners" to fill the fraudulent oxy prescriptions at corner drugstores.
Prosecutors say the 31 defendants sold more than 40,000 tablets of oxycodone, most of them through the ice cream truck. The illegal pharmacy-on-wheels took in an estimated $1 million between 2009 and 2010.