Man suspected of stealing Picasso sketch from San Francisco art gallery lived it up 

He appears to favor ritzy hotels, fine wine and pricey artwork.

But the motive for 30-year-old Mark Lugo, who worked at the high-end New York restaurant BLT Fish as a beverage manager, to allegedly steal a Picasso sketch from a San Francisco art gallery remains unknown to police.

Click the picture at right for more images.

The Picasso sketch “Tête de femme,” valued at $275,000, was snatched from the wall of the Weinstein Gallery at Geary and Powell streets late Tuesday morning.

San Francisco police announced the Hoboken, N.J., resident’s arrest Thursday during a news conference, during which the clothes Lugo allegedly wore during the heist were displayed alongside the recovered sketch.

Lugo reportedly invoked his right to remain silent, but police released more details about what occurred before and after the Picasso artwork was stolen.

Lugo flew to San Francisco on Monday from New Jersey, police said. The artwork was stolen from the gallery Tuesday.

Security camera footage from the restaurant Lefty O’Doul’s, which is near the gallery on Geary Street, was released Wednesday. It showed a man police said is Lugo carrying the Picasso, partially covered with newspaper, under
his arm.

The same tape also shows a gallery employee on her way to work turn to watch the man with the sketch as he walks past and enters a taxi. The worker then entered the gallery and noticed the Picasso missing from the wall. At that point, police were called.

Police said Lugo took the cab to the Hotel Palomar at Fourth and Market streets downtown. He stayed there overnight, where the room rate can range between $400 and $700 for a Tuesday night.

An interview with the cab driver led police to the hotel, police Chief Greg Suhr said Thursday. Further investigation led police to a condo apartment in Napa where Lugo was visiting friends he knew from New York, police said.

Lugo agreed to let cops search the condo, where they found the Picasso sketch undamaged but without its frame.

Police said he might have removed the frame in preparation for shipping.

Lugo was apparently working alone, police Lt. Ed Santos said. His Napa pals told police they knew nothing of the theft.

Lugo is being held on charges of burglary, grand theft, possession of stolen property and drug possession, among others, according to police. His bail was set at $5 million.

Police said they weren’t aware of any criminal history for Lugo except a minor alcohol-related arrest.

maldax@sfexaminer.com


Putting pieces together: Evidence purported to link Mark Lugo of New Jersey to the theft of a Picasso sketch, right, in San Francisco is displayed at a police news conference Thursday, above. A man police say is Lugo is seen on surveillance video, far right, near the gallery from which the artwork was taken.

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