Picasso Thief Pleads Guilty to Felony Theft

Thursday, October 27, 2011

CONTACT: Stephanie Ong Stillman, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167 or (415) 740-5134
Omid Talai, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-9272

George Gascon Picasso TheftGeorge Gascon Picasso Theft

San Francisco – District Attorney George Gascón announced today that Mark Lugo, a 31-year-old Hoboken, New Jersey resident, pled guilty to one count of felony grand theft for stealing an original pencil drawing by Pablo Picasso called “Tête de Femme” from Weinstein Art Gallery in Union Square.

Lugo, who has been referred to as the “Thomas Crown” of art thieves, was apprehended due to the thorough investigation of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). Because of the Weinstein Gallery Director’s quick thinking, and the cooperation of a cab driver from Checkered Cab, manager of the Palomar Hotel, and owner of Lefty O’Doul’s, SFPD Investigators were able to piece together Lugo’s whereabouts and recover the work of art which has an estimated value of $275,000.

“There are a lot of honest and hard-working small businesses going through difficult times. The plea today sends a message that my office is committed to protecting local businesses,” said District Attorney Gascón. “This case is an example of a community wide effort in helping bring the defendant to justice.”

On July 5, 2011, the defendant walked into Weinstein Art Gallery in Union Square and stole the Picasso drawing. The Gallery Director saw the defendant with the artwork covered in newspaper get into a taxicab and wrote down the license plate number. San Francisco Police Department Investigators interviewed the cab driver and learned the defendant was staying at the Palomar Hotel. Surveillance videos from the Palomar Hotel and Lefty O’Doul’s show the defendant in possession of the artwork.

Further SFPD investigation revealed the defendant lived in New Jersey and was in Napa, CA at a friend’s apartment. Approximately twenty-four hours after the work of art was stolen, SFPD took the defendant into custody after conducting surveillance at the Napa apartment. On July 12, 2011, a police search of Lugo’s New Jersey apartment uncovered several stolen artworks, including a Picasso painting taken from a Manhattan art gallery worth an estimated $500,000.

“I would like to congratulate District Attorney George Gascón and his entire office for the very efficient and professional job they have done in bringing this case to completion. I would also like to personally thank Inspector Loftus and the San Francisco Police Department for their extraordinary response to this theft,” said Rowland Weinstein, owner of Weinstein Art Gallery.

Today, the defendant pled guilty to one count of felony grand theft. He will be sentenced on November 21, 2011 to 16 months state prison as a “split term.” At the time of sentencing, defendant will be released from San Francisco custody and placed on mandatory supervised probation. However, the defendant will remain where he will be immediately extradited to New York. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office will be bringing charges for the stolen artwork recovered in Lugo’s New Jersey apartment.

In addition, to “Tête de Femme”, this is a list of items allegedly stolen by Thomas Crown art thief Mark Lugo.

• April 25 and 29, 2011: Three bottles of 2006 Chateau Petrus Pomerol from Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, Wayne, valued at $6,000.
• June 6, 2011: R. Pugliese oil painting stolen from the Harris Gallery, Manhattan, valued at $4,500.
• June 14, 2011: Five Mie Yim paintings stolen from the Chambers Hotel, Manhattan, valued at $1,500 each.
• June 16, 2011: Nara Yoshitomo painting stolen from the Opera Gallery, Manhattan, valued at $20,000.
• June 21, 2011: Jean Michael Basquiat photo stolen from the Skot Foreman Fine Art Gallery, Manhattan, valued at $3,000.
• June 27, 2011: Pablo Picasso sketch stolen from the William Bennett Gallery, Manhattan, valued at $30,000.
• June 28, 2011: Fernand Leger sketch stolen from the Carlyle Hotel, Manhattan, valued at $350,000.
• July 1, 2011: Malik Sidibe photo stolen from the Jack Shainman Gallery, Manhattan, valued at $8,500.
• July 5, 2011: Pablo Picasso sketch stolen from the Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco, valued at $275,000.
The arrest is the result of the diligent investigation by San Francisco Police Department Inspector Loftus and Lieutenant Santos. Omid Talai is the Assistant District Attorney.