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New Jersey Man Arrested in Stolen Picasso Drawing Worth a Quarter of a Million Dollars
Suspect Mark Lugo is shown. Police say they have made an arrest in connection with the daytime theft of a valuable Picasso drawing from an art gallery in downtown San Francisco. According to witnesses, a man took the artwork from the Weinstein Gallery on Tuesday morning and fled in a waiting taxi. The gallery says the piece was a 1965 pencil-on-paper drawing titled "Tete de Femme," recently purchased at an auction for $122,500. AP Photo/San Francisco Police Department.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (AP).- The case of a stolen Picasso has been cracked — and police say it was a New Jersey man who walked into the gallery in downtown San Francisco, snatched the drawing and fled in a taxi.

Police arrested Mark Lugo, 31, of Hoboken, N.J., on Wednesday at an apartment in Napa, and found the artwork stripped from its frame. The 1965 pencil-on-paper drawing — titled "Tete de Femme" — was purchased at a spring auction in New York. It's worth about a quarter of a million dollars.

"I've had some sleepless nights," said Rowland Weinstein, who owns the Weinstein Gallery. "I feel very, very lucky and very relieved that the Picasso wasn't harmed and will be returned back safely."

Weinstein said he planned to upgrade the street-level art gallery's surveillance system. The drawing was displayed under guard at a news conference at the police station on Thursday.

Lugo faces burglary, grand theft and drug charges and is being held on $5 million bail. He has been in town since July 4 and was visiting friends, said Police Chief Greg Suhr.

Lugo's arrest comes a day after surveillance video released from a nearby restaurant showed a man matching his description walking by with a piece of framed artwork covered by a newspaper under his arm.

Suhr said the footage played a key role in the arrest.

Investigators believe Lugo was working alone and likely planned to ship the artwork to an unknown party.

Weinstein said the artwork is so rare that any buyer who purchased it likely could not have displayed it publicly.

"It's exquisite and beautiful and very typical of (Picasso's) work," Weinstein said. "What I don't know is what he intended to do with it. It's very hard to resell to show.

"He either had a buyer or he didn't thoroughly think his plan through," Weinstein said.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Earlier:

San Francisco Police Make Arrest in Stolen Picasso Drawing from Weinstein Gallery

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (REUTERS).- San Francisco Police Make Arrest in Stolen Picasso Drawing from Weinstein Gallery

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (AP).- Police say they have made an arrest in connection with the daytime theft of a valuable Picasso drawing from an art gallery in downtown San Francisco.

According to witnesses, a man took the artwork from the Weinstein Gallery on Tuesday morning and fled in a waiting taxi. The gallery says the piece was a 1965 pencil-on-paper drawing titled "Tete de Femme," recently purchased at an auction for $122,500.

Surveillance video from a restaurant several doors down from the gallery showed a man walking by carrying a piece of framed artwork under his arm. He was dressed similarly to the police description of the suspect.

Police have not provided any details about the arrest, saying they'll discuss it at a Thursday morning news conference.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Earlier:

San Francisco Police Impound Cab Over Pablo Picasso Theft from Weinstein Gallery

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (REUTERS).- Police investigating the theft of a Pablo Picasso sketch from a San Francisco art gallery impounded a taxicab on Wednesday used as the getaway vehicle, hoping for clues from its surveillance camera.

The car was seized a day after an unidentified but smartly dressed thief stole Picasso's 1965 pencil drawing "Tete de Femme," which translates as "head of a woman," according to the Weinstein Gallery.

A man in dark glasses walked into the gallery and, before anyone noticed, made off with the sketch and escaped in a taxicab, San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said. The sketch measures about 11 inches by 8 inches.

Police learned the name of the cab company used by the thief and on Wednesday spoke to the driver and impounded the cab to gather evidence.

The driver is not suspected as an accomplice in the theft, police said.

Police said they were pulling images from the cab's camera to see if it captured anything that could lead to the suspect.

"We're hoping a member of the public recognizes the piece, if someone is walking around with it or trying to sell it," Esparza said.

Video footage posted online from Lefty O'Douls, a bar on the same block as the gallery, showed a man appearing to carry a drawing, but police were unable to immediately confirm if the footage showed the suspect from the Picasso heist. "We can only say this could be our suspect," Esparza said.

The Weinstein Gallery is located near San Francisco's tourist-filled Union Square, and it specializes in works from renowned painter Marc Chagall.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Cynthia Johnston)

Earlier:

Proprietors of San Francisco Restaurant Say They Have Footage of Picasso Thief

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (AP).- The proprietors of a San Francisco restaurant said Wednesday they have surveillance footage of a sockless thief who snatched a valuable Picasso drawing off an art gallery wall.

Lefty O'Doul's released images showing a man walking on a sidewalk carrying a framed artwork under his arm.

The restaurant is just a few doors down from the Weinstein Gallery, where police say a man stole a Picasso drawing late Tuesday morning before fleeing in a waiting taxi.

Gallery President Rowland Weinstein told the San Francisco Chronicle that the piece, a 1965 pencil-on-paper drawing titled "Tete de Femme," was purchased at auction this spring for $122,500 and had been part of a collection belonging to Picasso's driver.

The man in the video is dressed similarly to a police description of the suspect.

Police say he was a well-dressed man in his 30s wearing a dark jacket and pants, large dark glasses and loafers with no socks.

The theft left an empty space on the gallery's wall amid similarly valuable works by other modern masters, including Marc Chagall, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali.

Art experts said the publicity surrounding the theft would make it difficult for the thief to sell the painting without attracting notice. Police are hoping art collectors and dealers might spot the piece and alert law enforcement.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.



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