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New Jersey man pleads not guilty to Picasso heist

By Katie Silver, CNN
San Francisco police recovered a Picasso drawing less than 48 hours after it was stolen from the Weinstein Gallery.
San Francisco police recovered a Picasso drawing less than 48 hours after it was stolen from the Weinstein Gallery.
  • Mark Lugo is accused of stealing a Picasso sketch from a San Francisco gallery last week
  • He is also allegedly tied to several New York robberies
  • His lawyer says Lugo had no intention of selling the pieces

(CNN) -- A New Jersey man pleaded not guilty Friday to stealing a pencil-on-paper Picasso sketch from a San Francisco gallery last week, his defense attorney said.

Mark Lugo, 30, was charged with three counts -- burglary, grand theft and possession of stolen property -- and pleaded not guilty to all counts, according to his attorney, Douglas Horngrad.

Police have estimated the value of the piece at around $275,000, though Horngrad said it is not worth nearly that much.

The New Jersey man was arrested in Napa, California on July 6, police have said. His bail was set at $5 million dollars.

He is accused of entering the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco on July 5, walking straight to the painting, removing it and walking back out, police have said.

The artwork, "Tete de Femme," or "Head of a Woman," was drawn in 1965.

Following his arrest in San Francisco, New York police tied Lugo to surveillance footage from another theft at a New York City hotel.

Lugo was allegedly seen lifting a $350,000 Fernand Leger sketch from the Carlyle Hotel on June 28, according to Hoboken Detective Sergeant Edwin Pantoja.

After viewing the surveillance video, police obtained a search warrant for Lugo's Hoboken, New Jersey apartment early Wednesday, Pantoja said.

There, authorities found eleven paintings hung on the walls, he added.

"A mini-exhibit was going on in the apartment," said Pantoja.

The artworks -- which included another Picasso piece -- were allegedly stolen from seven different Manhattan galleries in June and July, according to a statement issued Friday by New York Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

The eleven pieces have a combined value totaling more than $420,000, police said.

Following the discovery in Lugo's New Jersey apartment, New York police issued a warrant for his arrest.

Lugo faces extradition to New York on suspicion of grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, said Browne.

Given that all the pieces were allegedly pinched during the last 45 days, Lugo appears to be "someone in the midst of a manic, compulsive exercise rather than an art-thief," his San Francisco attorney said.

Horngrad added that Lugo "had no intention to sell the pieces."

Lugo will next appear in San Francisco court on August 23, his lawyer said. Lexis Nexis Logo

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