Picasso theft suspect is 30-year-old New Jersey man 

click to enlarge Mark Lugo, a 30-year-old from New Jersey, has been arrested in connection with the theft of a Picasso sketch from a San Francisco art gallery on July 5, 2011. (Courtesy art) - MARK LUGO, A 30-YEAR-OLD FROM NEW JERSEY, HAS BEEN ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE THEFT OF A PICASSO SKETCH FROM A SAN FRANCISCO ART GALLERY ON JULY 5, 2011. (COURTESY ART)
  • Mark Lugo, a 30-year-old from New Jersey, has been arrested in connection with the theft of a Picasso sketch from a San Francisco art gallery on July 5, 2011. (Courtesy art)
  • Mark Lugo, a 30-year-old from New Jersey, has been arrested in connection with the theft of a Picasso sketch from a San Francisco art gallery on July 5, 2011. (Courtesy art)

A 30-year-old restaurant beverage manager from New Jersey was arrested Wednesday in connection with the theft of a Picasso drawing from a Union Square art gallery.

The Picasso sketch “Tête de femme," which is valued at $275,000, was taken from the wall of the Weinstein Gallery at Geary and Powell streets late Tuesday morning.  Video was also released Wednesday of the suspected thief strolling down the street with the artwork tucked under his arm.

Mark Lugo, of Hoboken, N.J., who worked at an unnamed upscale restaurant in New York City, was detained at a condo apartment in Napa on Wednesday around 9:30 p.m. The drawing was also recovered.

Lugo allegedly flew to San Francisco on July 4 from New Jersey. The artwork was stolen from the gallery at Geary and Powell streets on Tuesday, July 5.

A gallery employee on her way to work saw the "well-dressed" suspect hopping into a cab with the piece, which was partially covered with a folded newspaper, police said. She went to the gallery, noticed the Picasso missing from the wall, and police were called.

Lugo stayed overnight at the Hotel Palomar at Fourth and Market streets, where the cost per room can range between $400 to $700 on a Tuesday night.

An interview with the cabbie led police to the hotel, police Chief Greg Suhr said. Further investigation led police to a condo apartment in Napa, where he was visiting pals, police said.

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

Police believe he may have removed the frame in preparation for shipping.

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

Police would not speculate on whether Lugo came to San Francisco specifically to steal the art.

Lugo is being held on charges that include burglary, grand theft, possession of stolen property and drug possession, according to police. He is being held on $5 million bail.

Police said they weren't aware of Lugo's criminal past except for a minor alcohol-related arrest.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

 

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