NEW YORK (WPIX)—Although it looks a lot like a typical neighborhood-friendly ice cream truck, prosecutors say it was far from it.
31 people were arrested and charged in connection with a lucrative pill pushing ring that used an ice cream truck to distribute nearly 43,000 oxycodone tablets on Staten Island, officials announced Thursday.
According to authorities, the ring operated between July 2009 and June 2010. Nancy Wilkins, 40, allegedly stole prescription pads from the Manhattan orthopedic surgeon's office she used to manage, providing the group with 317 prescriptions for a total of 42,755 oxycodone pill.
Wilkins, 40, allegedly gave the ring access to numerous blank prescription forms which were then forged, cops said. The prescriptions would then be filled at various pharmacies throughout Staten Island by what prosecutors described as a network of runners.
The pills found their way in customers' hands by numerous means including from the ice cream truck where one pill would boast a price tag of $20.
Police have also charged Louis Scala, 29, and Joseph Zaffuto, 39 in the bust, alleging both men were in charge of the operation.
The group preyed on addicts in the area says Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan. Donovan is introducing legislation with Staten Island Representative Michael Grimm to create better communication between pharmacies. Donovan says a person who buys oxycodone in Staten Island then goes to Newark, NJ to do the same would set off red flags at the pharmacies instantly.
Scala, who was reportedly recently arrested in New Jersey on burglary charges, has been released on $15,000 bail. Zaffuto and Wilkins are in custody. They could face eight years behind bars.
This is the third major bust in the past two years aimed at slowing down the illegal selling of prescription drugs on Staten Island. Bridget Brennan, prosecutor for the Office of Special Narcotics, says the number of these prescriptions has increased 100% from 2007-2010 and mortality rates for accidental overdoses for opiate prescriptions are up 45%. Violent offenses attached to these cases also spiked, according to the prosecutor.