Picasso thief's home had $500K in stolen artwork, police say 

A police raid on Mark Lugo’s New Jersey apartment Tuesday uncovered several stolen artworks, including a Picasso painting that was taken from a Manhattan art gallery, investigators said Thursday.

Lugo, 30, of Hoboken, N.J., is locked up in San Francisco County Jail after being charged with stealing a Picasso sketch from the Weinstein Gallery in Union Square on July 5. The drawing, “Tête de Femme,” is worth more than $200,000.

Police say they found more stolen art after searching Lugo’s apartment in Hoboken, including another Picasso that was lifted from a Manhattan gallery. That Picasso, reportedly a 1933 painting titled “Sculpteur et Deux Têtes,” is valued at $350,000. Other missing artworks were discovered in the apartment, including one by the late graffiti artist and painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, authorities said.

“The paintings were hanging on walls and laying about the apartment,” Hoboken police said in a statement.

The artworks were seized by New York City and Hoboken police, and officials from the Hudson County (N.J.) Prosecutor’s Office. The agencies plan to file charges in their respective jurisdictions.

San Francisco police assisted in obtaining the search warrant, which was executed around 2:20 a.m., SFPD police Officer Albie Esparza said.

Reached by phone late Thursday, Ansell Hawkins, general manager of the Chambers Hotel in New York, was ecstatic to hear five stolen paintings by Mie Yim were recovered.

“This is amazing ... totally amazing,” Hawkins said. “I am astounded. I am relieved. It’s an extraordinary turn of events.”

Hawkins said he’s a friend of the artist and couldn’t wait to let her know.

“She will be thrilled,” he said.

Lugo was arrested July 6 in Napa, where he was visiting friends. The Picasso sketch he allegedly stole from the Weinstein Gallery was found undamaged but without its frame in the condo where he was arrested, San Francisco police said.

A security camera at Union Square restaurant Lefty O’Doul’s captured a man who appears to be Lugo casually walking with the sketch tucked under his arm, with only a folded up newspaper covering it.

Lugo, a sommelier who’s worked at high-end New York restaurants, was staying in the posh Hotel Palomar in downtown San Francisco the day of the alleged heist.

Lugo also is facing charges in Wayne, N.J., located less than 15 miles from Manhattan, for allegedly shoplifting three bottles of wine worth a combined $6,000 on two visits.

The Picasso theft in The City has gained attention worldwide, with Lugo being called the Thomas Crown of art thieves.

In a jailhouse interview with The San Francisco Examiner last week, Lugo said the theft case in San Francisco was “blown out of proportion.”

After hearing about the string of allegations, Lugo’s San Francisco attorney, Douglas Horngrad, said Thursday he is looking into whether his client suffers from psychiatric issues.

Lugo is being held on $5 million bail. He is set to appear in court today on the San Francisco theft charge.


Eye — and hand — for art

Police released a full list of artworks found in Mark Lugo’s Hoboken, N.J., apartment. Authorities have said the pieces were worth an estimated $500,000 total, including $350,000 for a Picasso painting.

  • Robert Pugliese piece, stolen from OK Harris Gallery on June 6
  • Mie Yim paintings (5), stolen from Chambers Hotel on June 14
  • Nara Yoshitomo piece, stolen from Opera Gallery on June 16
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat piece, stolen from Skot Foreman Fine Art Gallery on June 21
  • Pablo Picasso painting, stolen from William Bennett Gallery on June 27
  • Fernand Leger sketch, stolen from Carlyle Hotel on June 28
  • Malik Sidibe photograph, stolen from Jack Shainman Gallery on July 1

Source: NYPD


SF suspect tied to NJ wine theft

Robert Lesnick, loss-prevention manager for a New Jersey fine-wine store, told The San Francisco Examiner on Thursday he was “gobsmacked” to learn that Mark Lugo was arrested last week in connection with 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.

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

Lesnick’s complaint to authorities accused Lugo, 30, a Hoboken, N.J., resident, of stealing three bottles of the “very rare” 2006 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, which costs $2,000 a bottle. The thefts happened on two occasions, Lesnick said, and each time Lugo was caught on video wearing the same clothing.

Lugo has a warrant for his arrest for failing to show up to a June 9 court hearing in Wayne on the allegations.

Lugo, who worked as a sommelier at high-end Manhattan, N.Y., restaurants, is accused of swiping the wine 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.

Lesnick said the suspect slipped one of the $2,000 bottles into the inner pocket of his sport jacket.

The store’s security cameras caught Lugo leaving the shop. The store manager confronted Lugo the third time he came to the store, on May 23. 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.’”

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