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Fergus Falls couple gets probation in West Acres puppy theft

FARGO - An 18-year-old woman pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing a puppy from the West Acres Shopping Center on Aug. 2, according to Cass County District Court records.

Joli Rae Martin, of Fergus Falls, Minn., was sentenced to 30 hours of community service and 360 days of unsupervised probation, court records show.

Her boyfriend Jason Alexander Schmidt, also of Fergus Falls, pleaded guilty to the same misdemeanor theft charge and received the same sentence.

Police said Schmidt waited in the car outside the mall while Martin took the puppy from the "Pets-r-Inn" store. The puppy, valued at about $500, was eventually found in Schmidt's home and returned to the store.

Both were originally charged with Class C felonies, but those charges were lowered after an agreement with the shop owners, said Assistant Cass County State's Attorney Tanya Johnson Martinez.

"They were very understanding people," she said of the owners.

Johnson Martinez also said the value of the puppy is near the statutory threshold for a felony, so a misdemeanor conviction was "appropriate under the circumstances."