SFPD make arrest in theft of Picasso drawing

July 7, 2011 4:18:50 PM PDT
He was caught on camera, and now he's in custody: Mark Lugo, a 31-year-old man from New Jersey, is being accused of ripping off a pencil sketch by Picasso from a Union Square gallery in San Francisco.

Lugo was arrested in Napa on Wednesday as he was visiting friends. The man is charged with stealing the Picasso sketch entitled "Tete de Femme" from the Weinstein Gallery on Tuesday.

Lugo had flown in on the Fourth of July. The very next day, Lugo walked into the art gallery and allegedly took the Picasso valued at $200,000. Lugo then got into a cab and was driven away.

Before his cab ride, Lugo walked right past the security camera in front of Lefty O'Doul's restaurant, which is located next door to the gallery.

The cab driver who picked Lugo up took him to the nearby Hotel Palomar. From there, police were able to track Lugo to Napa where he had the stolen Picasso artwork and a Federal Express mailing box.

"We'll speculate at this point, it looked like he was preparing to have it shipped somewhere to an individual location," said Lieutenant Ed Santos with the San Francisco Police Department.

Why Lugo allegedly took the sketch remains a mystery, but it's possible that he had a buyer.

"I don't know who this buyer could be, because it's not anything you could ever take to market," said gallery owner Rowland Weinstein. "It's not anything you could resell. It's not anything you could really show to anybody."

Police credit the surveillance video from the restaurant and the cab surveillance camera for helping them solve the case. The police chief is encouraging all businesses to install video cameras, and that's part of the change coming to the Weinstein Gallery as well.

"We're going to increase our security," Weinstein said. "We will have video surveillance; we will have more people watching the door."

Lugo faces a possible drug charge in addition to a charge of grand theft. It's not currently known if Lugo had any accomplices.


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