(CNN) - Shell corporations, millions in fines, and a sting operation in New York City. It's not a noir film; it's a crackdown on ice cream trucks.
The city began seizing 46 ice cream trucks Wednesday in "Operation Meltdown" after operators violated traffic laws and then evaded fines for nearly a decade, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news release.
As the operators were handing out popsicles from 2009 to 2017 they also were racking up 22,000 summonses and nearly $4.5 million in fines for traffic violations, the city said. The operators had been cited for running red lights, parking near fire hydrants and blocking cross walks, among other things, the news release said.
"We all know from common experience that ice cream trucks are magnets for children," said Zachary W. Carter, the city's corporation counsel. "In order to protect this particularly vulnerable category of pedestrians, our traffic laws must be strictly enforced."
To get away with not paying fines, the release said, the operators created dozens of "shell" companies and systematically re-registered trucks at the Department of Motor Vehicles under the names of different corporations. By the time the city's finance department would try to collect on a debt, there would be no trace of the offending company, according to the news release.
The city has filed a lawsuit against offenders who owe more than $10,000 in judgments or unpaid fines, the release said.
"No New Yorker is above the law -- especially those who try to ignore public safety laws and create dangerous situations for pedestrians, bikers and drivers," de Blasio said in a statement.
CNN's Rob Frehse contributed to this report.
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