JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — A man and woman were sentenced to probation this week for one of several thefts exotic animals from suburban pet stores.

Rebecca F. Cozzi, 40, and Alexander G. Kochno, 27, both of Downers Grove, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Will County Circuit Court in Joliet to individual Class 3 felony charges of retail theft. They admitted stealing a blue Quaker parrot Aug. 30 from the Petland/Aquarium Adventure store in southwest suburban Bolingbrook.

Kochno and Cozzi were placed on two years of probation, said Charles B. Pelkie, spokesman for Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. Additionally, animal control officers can enter Cozzi’s and Kochno’s homes at any time to check the conditions of any pets or other animals they might be keeping there, Pelkie said.

The probationary terms will run concurrent with the sentences Kochno and Cozzi received Feb. 14 in Kane County Circuit Court. They were sentenced that day to 18 months of probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service work, after being convicted of the Aug. 31 theft of a white-bellied Caique and a green-cheeked Conure from Bird Is The Word, a pet shop in Batavia.

Cozzi, Kochno and the husband and wife team of Erik A. Zalkus and Viviana B. Rossi were arrested following an unsuccessful attempt to steal more animals from a since-closed Petland store in Wheaton.

All four were also implicated in the Aug. 31 theft of four sugar gliders — animals from Australia that are similar to flying squirrels — from Critters Pet Shop in St. Charles; and the theft of a rose-breasted cockatoo from the Petland store on South Route 59 in Naperville.

In each case, the suspects reportedly entered a shop and distracted its employees. One of the thieves would then hide the targeted animals in a purse or inside their clothing before walking out of the store.
Rossi, 28, of Berwyn, was sentenced last fall to 18 days in Kane County Jail and placed on 23 months of probation for her part in the Bird Is The Word case.

Zalkus faces trial in that matter and the Naperville Petland crime. He also is to stand trial for the Sept. 22, 2009, theft of a blue Quaker parrot from a pet shop in near northwest suburban Norridge.

The animals stolen in Batavia, Bolingbrook, Naperville and St. Charles had a total value of $6,650. All were recovered in good health from the Zalkus-Rossi home and returned to their respective stores.

At the time of the thefts, Batavia police Detective Kevin Bretz said in the past, people have stolen and then tried to sell birds to breeders or collectors, which was likely the motive this time.

The Naperville Petland was hit by thieves looking for exotic birds four times last year.

The Naperville Sun contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

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