Man jailed in Picasso theft faces similar charges in N.Y.

Picasso's etching ' Sculpteur et Deux Têtes.' Image courtesy of

Picasso’s etching ‘ Sculpteur et Deux Têtes.’ Image courtesy of

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A man who stole a sketch by Pablo Picasso has done his time but remained jailed in San Francisco on Monday until he is picked up by New York authorities to face similar charges in that state.

Mark Lugo of New Jersey completed his 138-day sentence after pleading guilty to grand theft in a plea deal involving the taking of the 1965 Picasso drawing called Tete de Femme (Head of a Woman).

He will be taken to New York to face charges of lifting artwork and fine wines, his lawyer Douglas Horngrad said.

In July, Lugo snatched the Picasso drawing worth $275,000 from the walls of the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco. Quick police work, video surveillance cameras and an alert taxi driver led to his arrest within 24 hours.

Police tracked him to a Napa hotel, where the Picasso was found unframed and prepared for shipping.

When investigators searched his apartment in New Jersey, they reported finding a treasure trove of stolen art worth some $430,000. They say the 30-year-old Lugo worked at upscale Manhattan restaurants and as a wine steward.

The San Francisco district attorney said the other stolen works included another Picasso print worth $30,000, a Fernand Leger sketch valued at $350,000, and three bottles of Chateau Petrus Pomerol wine worth $6,000.

The taking of another Picasso from the William Bennett Gallery in Manhattan’s Soho district was similar to the San Francisco heist. Authorities said the thief came into the gallery during business hours on June 27, lifted the piece off the wall and walked out with a rare print of the etching Sculpteur et Deux Têtes (Sculptor and Two Heads) worth about $30,000, said William Ledford, managing partner of the gallery.

Horngrad said his client was relieved to finish his California sentence and get on with the next court case. He said the initial bail of $5 million was overblown, due to media hype. Lugo had no prior arrests.

“This is more like someone who was in the midst of a psychiatric episode than someone who had the wherewithal and ability to steal a Picasso,” Horngrad said. “Nobody got killed; nobody got assaulted. This is not the crime of the century.”

Police who raided his apartment said the stolen works were prominently displayed and may not have been meant for sale.

Lugo also faces grand theft charges in New Jersey for allegedly stealing $6,000 worth of wine in April. The other charges include possession of stolen property and second-degree burglary.

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AP-WF-11-22-11 0027GMT