Not guilty plea for Aurora man charged in puppy heist

Updated 11/7/2016 4:57 PM
  • Benjamin Ocasio, of Aurora, is accused of stealing a Pomeranian puppy from a Naperville pet store.

    Benjamin Ocasio, of Aurora, is accused of stealing a Pomeranian puppy from a Naperville pet store.

The Aurora man charged with stealing a 12-week-old Pomeranian puppy named Bella last month from the Naperville Petland has turned himself in and pleaded not guilty.

Benjamin Ocasio Jr., 27, of the 200 block of Spruce Street in Aurora, was arraigned Monday on two counts of retail theft and one count of burglary. He is being held on $50,000 bail.

Authorities say Ocasio and a 27-year-old female relative entered the Petland in the Fox River Commons shopping center, near Aurora Avenue and Route 59, around 4 p.m. Sept. 4 and asked to play with Bella.

Naperville police Cmdr. Jason Arres said previously that both were quickly identified by the store's surveillance footage and were interviewed shortly after the theft.

An employee put the man, woman and Bella in a socialization room to play, and two different pet counselors checked in on the couple while they interacted with the dog. After a few minutes the couple walked out, with Ocasio accused of being the man holding the puppy.

Arres said police learned during the investigation that the puppy may have been dumped in the backyard of a home near New York and Root streets in Aurora. As of Monday, she had not been found or turned in.

While Bella doesn't have any tags, she is microchipped, so if she ends up at a shelter, she can be scanned and returned to Petland. Bella is a purebred Pomeranian and costs about $2,500.

Ocasio is due in court next on Nov. 15.

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