New Jersey Man Arrested In San Francisco Picasso Theft

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A New Jersey man is in custody on suspicion of stealing a Picasso drawing worth more than a quarter-million dollars from a Union Square art gallery earlier this week, police said Thursday.

Mark Lugo, 30, of Hoboken N.J., was arrested at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday after police tracked him to an apartment in Napa, police Chief Greg Suhr said at a news conference at the Hall of Justice this morning.

“This is an unbelievable piece of police work,” Suhr said.

KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:

At about 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, Lugo allegedly walked into the Weinstein Gallery at 383 Geary St. and took a pencil-on-paper drawing titled “Tete de Femme,” valued at about $275,000, and fled in a waiting taxicab, police said.

Police were able to track down the cab and learned that its driver took Lugo to the Hotel Palomar at Market and Fourth streets where he was staying, police Lt. Ed Santos said.

Lugo had flown in from New Jersey on Monday, and was found on Wednesday night at the Napa apartment, where he was with two friends he knew from the East Coast, Santos said.

The painting was in good condition but had been taken out of the frame, and it looked like Lugo was preparing to have it shipped somewhere, according to Santos.

The friends did not appear to know that Lugo had stolen the drawing and were not arrested, he said.

Police said today that they did not know whether Lugo targeted the gallery and that specific drawing, and said they were not aware of any similar offenses on his criminal record.

He was arrested on suspicion of grand theft, burglary, possession of stolen property and drug offenses, Santos said.

He said Lugo had narcotics in his possession, but police are awaiting lab results to verify which drug it was.

Lefty O’Doul’s, a restaurant and bar located just down the street from the art gallery, captured video footage of the alleged thief on a surveillance camera outside the building, and police acknowledged today that the footage helped identify Lugo.

“Where we have video, we’re going to have a lot of success,” Suhr said.

He said he encourages all businesses to install surveillance cameras because they often provide key evidence for police investigations.

The Picasso drawing, which was back in a frame and displayed at today’s news conference, was later carefully placed in a cardboard box by police and taken away to be kept as evidence for the pending criminal court case.

Lugo is being held in county jail in lieu of $5 million bail, police said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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  • cardaddy

    Hello mate! I completely agree with your thoughts. Thanks for posting this.

  • Danix2

    $5 million in bail? SERIOUSLY?! Murderers are held ( and sometimes released) on less!! This is ridiculous!!

    • beststrollers

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    • JQP

      Purpose of bail is to ensure the defendant will appear in court. That means he has to be physically present to do so.

      This perp is an OBVIOUS FLIGHT RISK.. And at this point, it’s not known whether he had organized accomplices ready to ‘fence’ this item. If so, he may have big bucks available to bail him out – and split.

  • norbit

    I don’t know what he had planned for that art piece…but I’m glad it’s recovered. BUT, if a person can walk in and out of an art museum with a $275K artwork, get in a cab, and leave, that art museum deserves to get robbed. Seriously…talking about clumsiness on the art museum’s part.

  • JaneQPublic

    In total agreement with ‘norbit’…

    If Walgreens can put a very tiny chip in items as small as a powder compact and have it trip an ALARM if a thief walks out the door with it, what is the problem with a legit art gallery doing the same thing on the back of a $250K piece of art???????

    With the apparent total lack of security, this was a theft ‘waiting to happen’.
    Sheer conjecture of course, but it does make one wonder if this was a setup…

    I expect this gallery’s insurance company will be taking a long hard look at their policy….

    Great police work on recovering this art work! Fast too! :-)

  • Survival

    Upon Lugo’s arrest, he was heard to say, “I was framed.”

  • Man Charged In SF Theft Of Picasso Drawing « CBS San Francisco

    […] Lugo was arrested Wednesday in Napa after police used surveillance footage and eyewitness accounts to track him to a hotel in San Francisco, and then to an apartment in Napa. […]

  • SF Picasso Theft Suspect Makes 1st Court Appearance « CBS San Francisco

    […] Lugo was arrested Wednesday after police used surveillance footage and eyewitness accounts to track him to a hotel in San Francisco, and then to an apartment in Napa where he was staying with friends. […]

  • Links: July 12 2011 | aforj

    […] Crazy story about the guy in SF who tried to steal a Picasso (sure you’ve already heard about this): […]

  • Suspected SF Art Thief Had Another Picasso At Home, Police Say « CBS San Francisco

    […] in a taxi to a nearby high-end hotel. Lugo was later traced to the hotel and later to Napa where he was arrested while visiting […]

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