Alleged Picasso art thief wanted in New Jersey for shoplifting fine wine 

Mark Lugo stole from me, too!

Robert Lesnick, a loss prevention manager for a fine wine store in New Jersey, told The San Francisco Examiner Thursday he was “gobsmacked” to learn that Lugo was arrested for the brazen theft of a Picasso drawing from a Union Square art gallery.

“I was having my morning coffee reading the paper and almost spit it out,” Lesnick said.

Two months ago, Lesnick had reported Lugo to police for shoplifting $6,000 worth of vino from Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in Wayne, NJ. The wine store is well-known for its top wines on the East Coast. On Thursday, Bravo TV was filming for “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” at the shop, Lesnick said.

According to Lesnick’s complaint to authorities, the Lugo, 30, of Hoboken, NJ, stole three bottles of the "very rare" 2006 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, which cost $2,000 apiece. The thefts happened on two separate occasions, Lesnick said, and each time Lugo was wearing the same exact clothing.

Lugo has a warrant for his arrest for not appearing at a June 9 court hearing in Wayne, a town less than 15 miles from Manhattan.

Lugo, who worked as sommelier at high-end Manhattan restaurant BLT Fish, is accused of swiping the wine on April 25 and April 29. In the first heist,  Lugo twice reached into a lower bin in the store to steal the bottles, Lesnick said in his complaint to authorities.

“It also appears that his sport coat flared out as he reached in for the second bottle,” the loss prevention manager said.

Lesnick believes the suspect slipped one of the $2,000 bottles in the inner pocket of his sports jacket.

The store’s security cameras caught Lugo leaving the store.

The store manager confronted Lugo the third time he came to the store, on May 23. He was apparently wearing the exact same closing as in his previous visits, Lesnick said.

Lugo identified himself as Michael Hugo.

"He stated that he did not know anything about it and I suggested he come back in the store and view some video," Lesnick said. "He suggested we clear this up and call the police, which I agreed to do. As I was calling he stated, 'I don't want any part of this...I'm leaving.'"

On Friday, Lugo is expected to plead not guilty to stealing the Picasso’s “Tête de Femme” drawing from the Weinstein Gallery at Powell and Geary streets. The day of the heist, Lugo was staying in the posh Hotel Palomar in downtown San Francisco.

In a jailhouse interview with The San Francisco Examiner on Friday, Lugo said the theft of the Picasso drawing, which was reported by news agencies worldwide, was "blown out of proportion."

Lugo’s attorney, Douglas Horngrad, also downplayed the case Monday.

“Nobody died, and nobody was assaulted,” he said outside the courtroom after the hearing with Lugo. “It’s not the crime of the century.”

He is being held on $5 million bail.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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