Family turns parrot over to police
By James Haynes
Saturday, July 31, 2004

SAUGUS -- A stolen baby parrot who was the subject of an all-points bulletin earlier this week was returned to its rightful owners by a family who put principle before personal investment.

Friday afternoon, 14 year-old Alisha Gugliemi and her family stood in the foyer of the Saugus Police Station and said goodbye to the bird bought in a deal that turned out too good to be true.

Ashley's father, Domenic, bought Smokey, an African Gray parrot valued at $1,600, for $250 Wednesday. What he didn't know at the time, was that the seller had stolen the bird hours before, from a Petco store in Saugus.

"I guess (Alisha) got attached to the bird over the last couple of days, but she knew she couldn't keep it," said Officer Jeff Wood, who handled the birdnapping case. "It's like finding a bag of money. She's giving back something that she could have easily kept and no one would have known. She's showing some real character in doing that."

The thief first approached Mary Anne Gray, Alisha's mother and Domenic Gugliemi's ex-wife, and an avid animal lover.

"I have birds, I've had an African Gray, and I think a lot of people know. This guy was actually sent to my house," she said. "I thought he was giving it away at first, and then he told me he was looking (to sell.) I asked him 'Why are you selling it, why do you need the money?' Because, frankly, he looked like he needed drug money more than anything else."Worried for the bird's safety, Gray referred the man to Domenic, who runs an electrical business in Malden and lives in North Andover. Gugliemi, also worried by the appearance of the parrot's seller, bought Smokey for $250, about 15 percent of his actual value.

Unfortunately, Smokey would only stay in his new home long enough for Domenic's children to grow attached to the bird.

Petco's manager called Saugus police in a panic after the theft Wednesday, saying the bird was barely an infant, and still being hand-fed. Provided with a good description of the suspect's car, Wood took the unlikely, but ultimately worthwhile step of putting out a 'Be On the Look Out' alert to area police for the missing bird.

"They gave a pretty good description of the vehicle, and I figured that, if it was the first hour, they might be able to stop the car with the bird in it," said Woods. "I took some ribbing when I put it out over the air though, believe me."

News media also took note of the quirky alert, and began working on the story. By the following day, Gray realized she had put her ex-husband up to buying a hot parrot.

"When I got home last night, my mother came in with the Boston Herald and there was an article and, at that point, I knew," she said. "I called Domenic and said, I didn't know. If I knew it was stolen, I never in a million years would have sent that guy over to you."

Gugliemi, despite the likelihood of upsetting his children and losing the $250, did the right thing by calling police, said Wood. Police were able to confirm the identity of the parrot via an identity collar on Smokey's leg.

"He called up immediately once he found it was stolen," said Wood. "He wanted to arrange getting the bird back to the rightful owners."

Petco appeared grateful to the family for their honesty, issuing them a $100 gift certificate.

Smokey, scheduled to visit a veterinarian immediately after the hand over, was declared hungry, but otherwise in good shape by Petco Team Leader Adrienne Minieri. The experience hadn't ruffled Smokey's feathers, figuratively speaking, and the bird seemed pleased to be handed around to Wood and Alisha, enthusiastically chewing on Gugliemi's watchband and nipping the officer on the finger.

Police are still looking into the theft, said Wood, who said the incident was one of the strangest he has handled as a police officer.

"I've always wanted to make detective," he said. "Pet detective, however, wasn't exactly what I had in mind."