Local man finds stolen Picasso lithograph

NOVATO, Calif.

Even police are calling the story pretty unbelievable -- a local man went on an early morning hike and happened upon an artistic treasure.

When he started up the trail, Greg Atamaniuk was expecting to get a good workout, but he never expected to find a work of art.

"I started walking up, I noticed it was a picture frame," Atamaniuk said. "As soon as I started seeing the picture, I knew right away that the picture was something. I come on up and I looked and it had a little brass plaque and it was 'Pablo Picasso.'"

The lithograph, valued at over $30,000, had gone missing from a palatial mansion, just up the hill after a group of teenagers broke in and threw an illegal party there two weeks ago.

Atamaniuk knew the story, he just couldn't believe what he'd found.

"All I did was walk around a little bit, look at it, sit down and just study it for awhile and just said, 'This can't be real; this isn't really happening, this is not really here,'" he said.

And then he called the police, who came and -- very carefully -- picked it up.

"We're taking all proper evidence precautions, handling with gloves and the utmost care," Novato police Sgt. Jennifer Welch said.

Atamaniuk's next call was to his wife Susan.

"He said, 'I found the Pablo Picasso lithograph that was stolen,' and I was just amazed," she said.

Police will hang onto the Picasso until the investigation is over and then return it to its rightful owner -- a former Ukrainian prime minister who is currently in jail for money laundering.

Atamaniuk will probably never see it close up again. His only regret was not taking a picture.

"It's a pretty special moment to recover a big piece of art like that," Atamaniuk said.

Police are still looking for lots of other items taken from that house, including laptops, leather jackets and silver candlesticks. They say have one suspect, but aren't releasing any names and so far, no one has been arrested.

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