NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to selling oxycodone pills from a "Lickity Split" ice cream truck alongside frozen children's treats in a scheme prosecutors said netted more than $1 million.
As part of a plea deal, Louis Scala admitted to one count of conspiracy and one count of drug possession. In exchange, he will receive a prison term of 3-1/2 years when he is sentenced on October 18.
Authorities had charged Scala and a partner, Joseph Zaffuto, with obtaining more than 40,000 pills by filling out blank prescription forms purchased from Nancy Wilkins, another co-defendant who worked as a surgeon's office assistant.
According to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City, Scala and Zaffuto operated a 31-person drug ring out of Staten Island, employing a raft of runners to fill the phony prescriptions.
In some instances, the two offered free drugs to addicted customers in exchange for buying pills at local pharmacies, prosecutors said.
They then sold the 30-milligram painkillers, which are highly addictive, out of an ice cream truck, according to the office.
The arrests focused attention on what authorities said was a recent explosion in prescription opiate abuse, particularly on Staten Island.
According to the special prosecutor, data showed that the borough's 2010 prescription rate was enough to supply 28 percent of its population with oxycodone.
Wilkins was sentenced in June to six months in prison and five years of probation after pleading guilty to several counts. Charges against Zaffuto are still pending.
Most of the other defendants, largely runners who filled prescriptions, have pleaded guilty, according to the special prosecutor's office. Some received drug treatment in lieu of jail time.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Johnston)