NEW YORK (1010 WINS/AP) – A New Jersey man accused of stealing a valuable Picasso drawing from a San Francisco art gallery has pleaded not guilty to burglary and grand theft charges.
Police believe Mark Lugo is responsible for at least eight thefts since June totaling more than $600,000 worth of artwork, including a $350,000 drawing by French artist Fernand Leger. Pieces from seven of those thefts were recovered during a police raid of Lugo’s Hoboken home, as he awaited arraignment in the eighth case in San Francisco.
Lugo, 30, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of grand theft, burglary and possession of stolen property for allegedly stealing the 1965 Picasso drawing called “Tete de Femme (Head of a Woman).”
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Workers at the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco reported that a young man brazenly snatched the piece, worth more than $200,000, from the wall on July 5 and casually walked away. Surveillance video from a nearby restaurant showed a man matching Lugo’s description strolling by with the framed drawing tucked under his arm.
Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng rejected a request to reduce Lugo’s $5 million bail, saying the 30-year-old suspect posed a threat to public safety and local business owners.
Lugo’s attorney, Douglas Horngrad, had argued that the bail was set too high because of “overhyped media” coverage.
On Thursday, Hoboken police said they found another Picasso drawing and several other pieces around Lugo’s apartment.
That Picasso drawing had been reported stolen by the William Bennett Gallery in Soho.
“It was taken right off the wall in the middle of a Monday afternoon,” said William Bryan Ledford, owner of the gallery. “Our surveillance system actually didn’t pick him up. The guy had a skill at sort of being undetected.”
Horngrad declined to comment on those allegations.
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