Thief who strolled out of gallery with Picasso had treasure trove of stolen art

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A man who walked out of a San Francisco art gallery with a pencil sketch by Pablo Picasso worth £172,000 has admitted grand theft.

Workers at the Weinstein Gallery said Mark Lugo brazenly snatched the drawing, called Tete de Femme (Head of A Woman), from a wall of their gallery on July 5. He then walked out, went down the street and got into a cab with it under his arm.

But quick police work, video surveillance cameras and an alert taxi driver led to his arrest within 24 hours.

When investigators searched Lugo’s apartment in New Jersey, they uncovered a treasure trove of stolen art worth around £269,000, including another Picasso painting worth £18,700 and a Fernand Leger sketch valued at £219,000 and three bottles of Chateau Petrus Pomerol wine worth £3,750, San Francisco district attorney George Gascon said.

“This is a person who definitely had a taste for the finer things, and he didn’t like to pay for them,” Mr Gascon said.

Lugo, 30, who investigators said worked at upmarket Manhattan restaurants and as a wine steward, had other charges, including burglary, dropped in a deal that allows him to be released on November 21 because of time already served. But his lawyer, Douglas Horngrad, said Lugo would then be extradited to New York to face similar charges over art thefts there.