Tillamook Cheese Vans Melt Into Thin Air In California

tillamook-cheese-busesMANTECA (CBS13) – Police say that the whole Tillamook Cheese Tour truck caravan was stolen from the parking lot of a Manteca hotel Saturday morning.

The trailer was parked at the Hampton Inn along Bass Pro Drive in Manteca, Manteca Police say. At some point between 12:30 and 6:30 a.m., police say, thieves took off with the whole caravan of vehicles – which not only includes a pickup truck and a trailer, but three classic Volkswagen Mini Buses.

The VW Mini Buses were in the trailer, which was attached to a Ford F-350, when the theft happened, police say. Police say that the VW Mini Buses alone are worth about $100,000 each. The buses are used as a part of Tillamook’s promotional tour, each one highlighting the company’s different cheese, yogurt and ice cream products.

It shouldn’t be too hard to spot the vehicles, as all of them are custom-painted orange with the “Tillamook” logo emblazoned on the sides. Anyone who knows where the vehicles might be is asked to call the Manteca Police Department at (209) 456-8101. The following is the vehicle’s description, along with their license plate numbers:

♦ 2008 Ford F350, Oregon License plate number Y116821
♦ Wells Cargo Trailer, Oregon License plate number TF1144
♦ 1964 VW Mini Bus, Oregon License plate number YUM4
♦ 1966 VW Mini Bus, Oregon License plate number YUM5
♦ 1959 VW Mini Bus, Oregon License plate number YUM6



Ice Cream With a Bitter Taste: This Cone Man is a Con Man


mister-softee_Logo Master_Softee_Logo Mister_Softee_Vs_Master_SofteeWanted: A grinning, bow-tied, cone man who’s been seen on the streets peddling his copycat sweets.

A federal court judge banned Master Softee from operating its rogue fleet of ice cream trucks that blatantly rip off the Mister Softee brand — but so far, the Master’s rapscallion cast of dessert vendors refuses to budge.

The June 5 ruling was a score for Mister Softee. The summertime treat powerhouse had sued its former franchisee, Dimitrios Tsirkos, who runs his buggies in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx out of a depot in Long Island City.

The 53-year-old Woodside businessman painted his vehicles in a familiar-looking red, white and blue color scheme and included a grinning, cone-headed mascot — making the truck difficult to differentiate from a Mister Softee four-wheeler.

“It is obvious that (Tsirkos) adopted his truck designs with the object of achieving an appearance similar to plaintiff’s Mister Softee trucks,” Judge Laura Taylor Swain wrote in court papers. “The trucks are designed to appeal to children, who are relatively unsophisticated consumers.”

Swain barred Tsirkos from using the name Master Softee or any other confusing names or marks, and prohibited Tsirkos from involvement in any facet of theretail ice cream industry within 5 miles of his former Mister Softee franchise territories until February 2016.

Still, the Daily News spotted Master Softee trucks over the weekend on Sixth Ave., in Greenwich Village, and along Broadway in Astoria. Mister Softee co-owner Jim Conway said that a private eye retained by his company counted 10 of the trucks on Saturday and Sunday in Manhattan.

“These guys are bad guys on all levels,” said Conway, whose family founded the New Jersey-based chain in 1956. “We don’t have an alternative but to work through the court system. Conway and his lawyer, Jeff Zucker, have spent more than a decade suing knockoff Mister Softee ice cream trucks. They say they have never lost a case.

Tsirkos’ attorney, Nicholas Damadeo, wouldn’t explain why the illegal sugar-loving crew appeared to be ignoring the court’s order. “The case is still proceeding,” Damadeo said, adding the ban is not permanent and Tsirkos can file an appeal. “That’s one of the avenues that is available.”

Meanwhile, Mister Softee investigators plan to submit photographs of Master Softee trucks in action, hoping that Swain will come down on Tsirkos. “They are violating the judge’s orders,” Conway said.


Man Buying $3 Ice Cream Treat Gets Meth With His Change

kelly_brown_2BRENTWOOD — A man buying a $3 chocolate treat from an ice cream truck got an extra something with his change — a baggie of methamphetamine.

It could have been an innocent mistake, according to police, but the ice cream man was arrested and prosecutors will ultimately decide if he should be charged.

The 30-year-old Brentwood man told police he took a break from working on his pickup truck at about 3 p.m. Wednesday on the 200 block of Mountain View Drive to cool off with some ice cream. When he handed the suspect $20, a dime-bag size of meth was tucked in his $17 in change.

After the man said he didn’t want the drug, the suspect replied he didn’t know how the baggie ended up in his truck and asked the man to throw it away, according to police. The man kept the bag and called police.

Five minutes later, officers found 62-year-old Kelly Brown of Oakley and his truck at a gas station at John Muir Parkway and Balfour Road. Brown repeated to officers that he does not sell drugs, and theorized the bag of meth could have come from a customer earlier in the day. Brown was arrested on suspicion of possession and transportation of methamphetamine, both felonies.

He was booked at Martinez Detention Facility. The case will be sent to the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office for review. Lt. Doug Silva of Brentwood police called it an isolated case and said they have no reports of similar incidents involving Brown.

“It’s very possible he could have accepted this from someone else,” Silva said. There were no children involved in the incident, police said.

NOTE: Thanks and a tip of the hat to Lisa Fenger!

Sneak Thief Steals Change From Queens Ice Cream Trucks

mister-softee1His smile never wavers above his bright red bow tie. This is not a serious man — he has an ice cream cone for a head. And yet in the cheery world of Mister Softee, there are rules.

  • Do not sell ice cream on another Mister Softee truck’s route.
  • Do not play the music constantly. Turn it off while you’re idling.
  • If the machine acts up and pumps too much ice cream onto a cone, do not serve it. Other kids will notice and want a big one, too.

And as of this month, a new rule at a Mister Softee truck lot in Queens: Do not leave your bank of quarters and bills locked in the truck overnight.

It changed what had been standard operating procedure at a Mister Softee parking lot in South Ozone Park for as long as any of the drivers could remember. The place seemed very secure, with cameras, a tall fence and locks on the gate. And the trucks parked there must have looked worthless to a passing thief. What are you going to steal from an empty Mister Softee? Sprinkles?

Drivers routinely hid rolled bundles of quarters and sometimes more in the nooks and crannies of the trucks’ crowded interiors. It was easier than lugging the change home every night. They never had a problem, until April 4, when somebody entered the lot and forced open the service windows of a dozen or so Mister Softee trucks. The thief took hundreds of dollars in coins and bills, the police said.

The Mister Softee drivers arrived for work the next morning to find their trucks damaged and money gone. Out of work for a day of repairs, they became a team of amateur Detective Softees, swapping theories.

The culprit appears on a snippet of video to be a man, the drivers said. He probably climbed on top of a neighboring house and dropped over the fence into the lot.

“The guy was smart,” said Harish Kumar, 52, the lot’s owner.

Mr. Kumar bought the property in 1990 and cleaned it up. A Mister Softee driver lived down the block.

“He asked my husband, ‘Why don’t you make a parking lot for Mister Softee?’ ” said Mr. Kumar’s wife, Iman Khan. He agreed, and ended up buying four trucks himself. His children and relatives now work there, driving trucks, and Ms. Khan oversees the supply of ice cream mix, cones and other ingredients that are sold to the drivers.

Mr. Kumar knows every inch of his lot and his trucks. And so, it seems, did the thief. “He went behind the trucks,” Mr. Kumar said, “so the camera would not see him.”

The thief spent a couple of hours in the lot, going methodically truck to truck. “He got $700 from those three trucks,” Ms. Khan said, pointing, “350 from that truck.”

One veteran driver of 32 years, Henry J. Murphy Sr., 52, was one of the victims. He kept $200 or so in a cabinet that looks like a freezer, with a thermometer on the door.

“Only someone who knows the business would know,” he said.

“A guy who used to work with Mister Softee,” Mr. Kumar added.

So far, no arrests.

Mr. Murphy has been selling ice cream on his route in Jamaica for so long that, when a little girl appeared at his window, he remembered her father as a boy at that age. He earned enough to raise four children in East Elmhurst, Queens, he said. He graciously allowed a visitor to turn on the music for a minute and cross one more thing off a bucket list.

“That music,” he said, “has made me so much money.”

He works his route the way a doctor makes hospital rounds, parking outside a Catholic School on Parsons Avenue just before dismissal, where children lined up five-deep on Thursday. He worked without pause for half an hour before moving on to a playground. Then another school. He greeted many parents by name.

“It’s not just the face on the truck,” he said. “It’s the face behind the truck.”

The thief has not returned, but he may have struck again. A masked intruder broke into several Mister Softee trucks parked at a larger lot in Queens Village two weeks later. The drivers there kept only loose change in the trucks, but still, they were cleaned out, a manager said.

An Ozone Park driver just shook his head and said, “People will do anything for a buck these days.”

Ice Cream Truck Turf War Breaks Out on Easter Morning

ice_cream_truck_xlargeST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) – There’s a turf war going on in one north St. Louis County neighborhood and it’s over ice cream.  Authorities say an ice cream truck turf war turned criminal on Easter morning.

It happened  on Parker Road near Highway 367 when police say one ice cream truck operator was cut off by another who allegedly threatened him.

Witnesses say the second driver then started damaging the first driver’s truck, music siren and merchandise. The driver of the damaged truck says he’s had the same route for seven years and the second driver wanted to take over his route.

But the real kicker here is that both drivers work for the same company. The victim says he plans on keeping his route and that other driver may lose his job.

NOTE: Thanks and a tip of the hat to Kat Bennett!

Businessman Fined for Popping Ice Cream Truck Tires

MALMO, Sweden, Jan. 24 (UPI) — A Swedish businessman who used a power drill to puncture the tires of an ice cream truck was fined and ordered to pay the driver for lost income.

Percy Nilsson, 71, owner of the Malmo Redhawks hockey team, was sentenced Friday by the Malmo district court to pay a $15,500 fine and reimburse the ice cream truck driver for the loss of income caused by the damage to the vehicle, TheLocal.se reported Friday.

It was a really tough sentencing and it’s sad that it ended this way,” Nilsson told Sweden’s TT news agency. Nilsson previously confessed to the crime and paid to replace the driver’s tires, but took the matter to court in the hopes of inspiring debate about the “outdated” practice of ice cream trucks blasting jingles as they pass through neighborhoods.

Nilsson’s lawyer told the court his client had suffered mentally as a result of the truck’s music.


Police Investigate the Case of the Missing Mozzarella


More than five tonnes of stolen cheddar and mozzarella is missing in Sydney.

When police pulled over a car in Sydney’s north-west and discovered 150 kilograms of cheese in the back seat and boot, little did they know it was a small slice of a larger heist. There are still more than five tonnes of stolen cheddar and mozzarella out there, somewhere.

A 31-year-old man was charged on Thursday after the black Ford Focus sedan he was in was pulled over on Marsden Road, Carlingford, and he was allegedly in possession of drugs. When officers searched the car, they also found 150 kilograms of ”King Cheese” in the back seat and boot, which they allege was ”stolen or illegally obtained”.

The rightful owner of the cheese, a long-established food wholesaler in Sydney’s south-west, said the 150 kilograms was only a small portion of the six tonnes of cheese taken when one of his company’s refrigerated trucks was stolen from Bankstown on Wednesday. The loot was mainly mozzarella and cheddar, he said, and was to be delivered to be on-sold for Sydney’s restaurants and takeaway shops.

Who would steal six tonnes of cheese? The owner, who asked not to be named, said he did not know but assumed someone would try and sell it to small stores and eateries at a bargain price.

”There was no way they would have known there was cheese in the back of the truck,” he said. He said there must have been some planning put into the theft, saying you could not just hide the 10-tonne refrigerated truck in a garage.

The owner said the cheese was insured and he had already got his hands on replacement stock. He said he held little hope of finding the rest. ”I would like the truck back though, especially in the lead up to Christmas,” he said. He had no issue with the police destroying the 150 kilograms they found, saying the officers had no way to refrigerate such a large quantity.

It was also not the first time he had been the victim of food theft. ”I had a bloke working for me who was taking a few boxes here and there and selling it on the sly,” he said.

The 31-year-old allegedly caught with the cheese, who is understood to be well-known to police, was refused bail when he appeared in court on Thursday charged with possessing prohibited drugs. He was also charged with having goods in his custody that were suspected of being stolen, in connection with the cheese.

A 38-year-old woman who was driving the car when it was stopped by police in a car park of a memorial reserve at 3.30am has not been charged.

The owner of the cheese said he did not know the man allegedly caught with the 150 kilograms, saying he believed investigations into who might have been involved in the robbery were continuing.