NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Thirty-one people were arrested and charged with selling oxycodone pills out of an ice cream truck on Staten Island in what Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan called "Operation Bad Medicine."
The drug trafficking ring allegedly peddled thousands of oxycodone pills, in just one year, out of the same vehicle used to sell ice cream to neighborhood kids.
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., reports CBS 2's Tony Aiello.
WCBS 880's Irene Cornell gets details on how the drug ring worked
"After serving ice cream to the children, Scala would invite the pill customers, typically waiting in their nearby car, to step into his truck to complete their transaction," Brennan said.
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.
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"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 said..
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 get fill the fraudulent oxy prescriptions at corner drugstores.
"[They would] obtain the pills, which they would then turn over to Scala and Zaffuto," Brennan said. "They would be paid in cash, or they would be paid in pills."
Now, the Organized Crime Task Force is sniffing around the case because of the mob connections of two of the defendants. Zaffuto is a convicted Lucchese Family soldier, while one of the runners is a known Lucchese associate.
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.
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