DARTMOUTH — Cattle owners here need not fear that masked desperados have descended on their South Coast community.
Authorities say that the theft of 49 head of cattle from a Dartmouth communal farm Saturday night was an isolated episode perpetrated by someone who did business with the owner.
“The community certainly doesn’t have to worry about cattle rustlers going around Dartmouth stealing their cows,” Timothy M. Lee, chief of the Dartmouth Police Department, said in an interview Tuesday.
Lee said 40 of the 49 cows stolen from the farm on Old Fall River Road have been recovered by the owner, whom authorities identified as Ahmed Mahmoud of New Bedford, at an auction house in New Holland, Pa. Authorities said the remaining animals were discovered in Medway, where they were in the process of being sold.
“The owner’s going to get his cows and return them here,” Lee said.
He said the owner has identified a possible suspect, with whom he had business dealings in the past. The chief also said more than one person is probably involved. No one had been apprehended, he said. “We anticipate charges coming before the end of the week,” he added.
The cattle caper began Saturday night, authorities say, when the thieves drove a truck, or trucks, onto the narrow, potholed dirt road that leads from Old Fall River Road to the farm. The animals, valued at about $50,000 in total, were loaded on board and driven off.
“It certainly wasn’t a random act,” Lee said. “It wasn’t someone driving down the road and saying ‘Hey, let’s steal cows.’ Taking 49 cows involves coordination and the logistics had to be worked out.”
The site, which Mahmoud rents, is part of a sprawling territory of lots, ramshackle barns, campers, and other temporary structures. The ground inside an empty pen on his site contained numerous hoofprints Tuesday. No one answered calls at the locked gate outside.
Kristy Cabral, 28, who raises ducks, chickens, and rabbits at her home, which is located a short distance from Mahmoud’s lot, said she would have heard heavy trucks if they had been operating while she was home. As she spoke, a truck rumbled by, proving her point.
But she said she had come home “really late, like 11 p.m.,” which could have been after the rustlers had done the deed. And her family, she said, is the only one that lives near Mahmoud’s lot. The others have homes elsewhere and come there only to work.
Other farmers suggested that Mahmoud’s lot is more susceptible to invasion because it is closer to the exit to Old Fall River Road than others. Not that anyone around here is accustomed to theft.
“This is a shocker to all of us down here that this happened,” Cabral said.
The discovery of 40 head of stolen cattle also provided a shock to people 370 miles away in New Holland, according to Lancaster Online, a Pennsylvania-based website that reported on the theft. The website quoted the manager of New Holland Sales Stables as saying that stolen animals occasionally appear at auctions, but never so many at once.
Lancaster Online quoted New Holland police as saying that the cattle were delivered to the stables Sunday by a third party. Mahmoud was tipped off that his missing cattle were there, and police took him to the stables, where he identified his animals through tags and scars, the website quoted police as saying. Neither New Holland police nor managers of the stables were available for comment.
Lee said that the cattle discovered in Medway were probably skimmed off for sale by someone involved in the theft.
“By the end of the week we’ll be able to establish the connection," he said.
For any who feared that the theft signified the resurrection of such infamous rustlers as the John Kinney Gang or the Seven Rivers Warriors, Lee had these comforting words.
“The Wild West hasn’t moved to Dartmouth,” he said.