Yesterday the Observer and NBC New York reported that 20-year-old Mina Gatas was arrested in Bay Ridge for using an ice cream truck as a front for his drug-dealing business in what police called “Operation Snowcone.” Runnin’ Scared thought the simplicity of Gatas’s scheme was genius. It was so simple that we were surprised no one had thought of it before.
In fact, someone had thought of it before. Many someones. Turns out, New York has a deep history of drug-pushers leading double lives as ice cream men, in all boroughs and even on Long Island. Here are four of our favorites, culled from across the Internet.
Alexey Zagrebin, and James LaPointe, Bensonhurst, August 1998
Twenty-year-old Alexey Zagrebin’s mother bought him an ice cream truck hoping that he would get a job. He and his partner James LaPointe, 19, ended up doing brisk business slinging weed and hash from it. So brisk that anyone who just wanted a cone was out of luck: One neighbor said one of the men was rude to people who weren’t there to pick up marijuana. When police nabbed Zagrebin and LaPointe near Seth Low Park, they found six $10 bags of marijuana and 12 bags of hash.
Jermaine Jordan, Queens, August 2007
Mister Softee was a softie for hard drugs. In August 2007, police executed a search warrant on a Mister Softee truck serving Jamaica. Twenty-six-year-old Jermaine Jordan was found with cocaine, marijuana, and a gun in plain view of the serving window. Jordan travelled the entire neighborhood, but a favorite haunt was outside Intermediate School 8 in South Jamaica, where he was arrested. One parent, Donald Williams, expressed his disappointment to the Post: “I been here for 40 years and ain’t never would’ve thought Mister Softee was dealing drugs. Not Mister Softee.”
Kenneth Leiton, Long Island, August 2009
When you’re summering on Long Island, sometimes the only way to beat the heat is with some soft-serve. Or cocaine. Kenneth Leiton, 22, was busted re-upping his cocaine and oxycodone supply when he parked his Mister Softee ice cream truck in front of his drug dealer’s house in Westbury. Nassau County police nabbed the dealer and some of Leiton’s customers in the process.
Joseph Zaffuto, Louis Scala, Nancy Wilkins, Staten Island, March 2011
Even the mob saw virtue in covering up its illegal dealings under King Cones. Long Island mobster Joseph Zaffuto and Lucchese family muscle Louis Scala got Nancy Wilkins to sell them the prescription pads from the surgeon’s office she worked for. In all, the three moved 42,755 oxycodone pills–nearly $1 million in profit–through Staten Island between 2009 and 2011, all out of the back of a Lickety Split ice cream truck. In total the bust brought down 31 people, including the 28 runners who would fill the fake scripts and deliver them to the truck.
Send your story tips to the author, Raillan Brooks.