NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The innocent music box jingle and the colorful advertisements for frozen treats were concealing some seedy transactions inside an ice cream truck in Brooklyn, prosecutors said Tuesday.
As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, ice cream truck driver Mina Gatas, 20, was accused Monday of peddling narcotics alongside the tasty wares he was advertising. He was busted in an investigation dubbed “Operation: Snowcone.”
“He sold large quantities of drugs right from the ice cream truck while children bought their ice cream treats just a few inches away,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
The investigation allegedly began in June, when an undercover officer from the Kings County District Attorney’s Office walked into the In and Out Halal Deli, where Gatas also worked. Gatas allegedly told the officer he could get him some drugs, and they exchanged phone numbers and began texting back and forth afterward, prosecutors said.
After several text messages, Gatas and the officer arranged to meet near the deli on July 1, prosecutors said. The officer allegedly bought 13 grams of cocaine for $825, and also talked with Gatas about purchasing oxycodone pills at a later date, prosecutors said.
The officer later met Gatas after a deal to buy 15 more grams of cocaine, prosecutors said. They met at Owls Head Pier, at Shore Road and 69th Street in Brooklyn, where Gatas parked his ice cream truck, prosecutors said.
Surveillance video allegedly showed Gatas selling cocaine and oxycodone pills to the officer from the ice cream truck, prosecutors said.
The officer followed Gatas to the truck and asked for a vanilla cone, prosecutors said. The officer allegedly entered the truck and got his cone, along with $830 worth of cocaine that Gatas placed in a summery straw hat the officer wore, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.
Prosecutor Marc Fliender said Gatas made no attempt to conceal that he was making a drug deal with the undercover officer, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
“It is our belief that ‘vanilla’ meant vanilla as an ice cream, and ‘sprinkles’ meant sprinkles,” Fliedner said. “There was no particular code. These were very straightforward discussions that took place.”
Gatas’ landlady said her tenants often complained about his drug use.
“All the neighbors complain about it,” Galinia Kuznetsov said.
But fellow ice cream truck salesman Marco Alcantara, who has known the suspect for years, said he does not believe the allegations.
“I’ve never seen this kid do anything dishonest,” Alcantara said. “Never.”
But for the people who frequent Owls Head Pier, their sense of security has been left shaken.
“It’s not something you would expect,” said Anthony Ortiz of Bay Ridge. “You have families here. You have people coming with kids. It’s not usually a spot.”
Gatas was arrested on Monday, and his ice cream truck and personal car were seized, prosecutors said.
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