First cop in 'Gangsters in Uniform' scandal sentenced

First of 5 officers who planned hit on Nahariya mob kingpin sentenced to 22 months behind bars.

police 224.88 (photo credit: Israel Police)
police 224.88
(photo credit: Israel Police)
In a story that reads more like a Martin Scorsese script than from the records of northern Israel's police force, the first officer to appear before a judge in the "Gangsters in Uniform" scandal - an attempted hit on Nahariya mob kingpin Michael Mor involving five area police officers - was sentenced to 22 months behind bars and three years probation in the Haifa District Court on Sunday morning, police said. Haim Moshe, an Acre Police officer turned state's witness, was sentenced, according to his own confession, for his involvement in the planned bombing of Mor's car, as well as weapons trafficking and burglary charges, as part of a plea bargain. The affair, which rocked the quiet northern coastal town and rattled the country's police establishment in November 2007, targeted both Mor's car and his nephew's home with explosive devices that were described by investigators as "complex." The plot by the five veteran police officers and a civilian explosives expert to exact revenge on Mor - the head of one of Nahariya's top crime families - was in response to multiple attacks against area police officers, in which grenades were thrown at their homes. Mor had been implicated in those crimes, but not convicted. The burglary charges in the plea bargain stemmed from Moshe's contact with an undercover agent, whom he allegedly approached with a plan to take hundreds of thousands of shekels from an elderly woman. According to the plea bargain, Moshe told the agent that he would listen in on police radio during the break-in to allow the man ample time to escape if necessary. This prompted the judge in Sunday's case to write in the final verdict that Moshe "did not transmit the information [regarding the plot against Mor] as a good citizen, but only after being guaranteed a lighter sentence with the plea bargain." In November, the deputy head of the Justice Ministry's Police Investigative Department, Shlomo Lemberger, told reporters that "the severity of the case is not due to the results, but rather in the very existence of the incident itself - of police officers who adopted the techniques of organized criminals. This is a true blurring of the norms that are meant to be the basic foundations of law enforcement." But Ellie Moshe, Haim's father, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that he saw the case as a failure by police to put the real criminals behind bars. "It hurts, but that's how it is," the elder Moshe said. "The murderers get to run around, and the cops go to jail. I don't even know where [Haim] is. I heard on the radio that they sent him off to a jail somewhere. [Mor] is a known murderer, but they put my son away for nearly two years for fighting back against these criminals." Mor is currently serving 21 months in jail for a similar grenade attack on Nahariya Mayor Jackie Sabag's home in October 2006. The other four officers indicted in the case, along with the explosives expert, are awaiting sentencing, and police in the region were reluctant to comment any further. "There are red lines that are not to be crossed," said one source in the Northern District Police. "But I don't know what sort of situation [those officers] were in. Basically, it's in the court's hands now, and that's all I'm going to say." The affair prompted an internal investigation in November, along with a pledge by Israel Police chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen to redouble efforts on behalf of officers who were under threat by various crime families throughout the country. "The police are trying to distance themselves from the case," said a source within the oversight committee for police affairs. While the police officers and the civilian involved in the case are under police protection along with their families, their continued safety remains to be seen. The officers have been stripped of their badges and will likely not be allowed to reenlist after they are released from prison. "Each one will have his case heard out, but with a criminal record, they probably won't be allowed back on the force," said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld. "[As far as retribution is concerned,] everyone knows who's who up there, but there are general lines that haven't been crossed."