Judge Sentences Three Galilee Goat Thieves to Jail Time

The Nazareth Magistrate's Court meted out relatively heavy sentences yesterday to three suspects in the 2009 theft of 200 goats from the Ein Camonim farm in the Galilee.

Mahmoud Ghabis, 24, from Jerusalem, was given four years; his accomplice, Mohand Ghazem, 31, from Jerusalem, was given two and a half years. A third suspect, Mahmoud Abu Galia, 32, a meat merchant from Azzariyeh in the West Bank, was given four and a half years.

The three were also given suspended sentences and heavy fines.

Ein Camonim raises goats imported from the Alps, whose milk goes into their specialty cheeses. Each goat is worth about $1,000.

The thieves spirited the goats away in a truck and two large containers attached to wagons.

In rendering the sentence, Judge Lili Jung-Goffer said she hoped the punishments would be deterrents, because all farmers suffered from such a theft in terms of the price they must invest in security.

"It is the public that eventually pays the price in terms of higher costs of meat and milk products," she said.

The judge also said the culprits had acted "like a crime organization in every way" in carrying out a "complex and sophisticated operation."

Jung-Goffer said that while most of the goats had been returned to Ein Camonim, "this has limited weight, since the accused showed neither remorse nor cooperated with the police."

The judge said although Ghabis had no criminal record, his lack of cooperation and remorse led her to sentence him to four years, and that the merchant, who had the greatest interest in obtaining the rare goats and hid them at his house, deserved the most severe sentence. While Ghazem did have a record, this was his first major offense and his part in the affair was minor, thus his sentence was less than the others, the judge said.