As previously reported, everyone’s favorite alleged grand Picasso thief from Hoboken, NJ made his first court appearance earlier this week. Which might have been a surprise for New Jersey authorities, who issued a warrant for his arrest after he skipped a court date for some other high-brow theft charges in the Garden State.
The accused, Mark Lugo, 30, allegedly walked into San Franciscos’ Weinstein Gallery at 383 Geary St. a little over a week ago and fled in a waiting taxicab with the pencil-on-paper drawing “Tete de Femme,” valued at about $275,000.
Lugo was arrested after SFPD used surveillance footage (an apparent theme in Lugo’s life, as you’ll see) and eyewitness accounts to track him to his SF hotel and then a friend’s apartment in Napa. Though the painting was in good condition, its frame was off and police say it appeared that Lugo was going to ship it somewhere.
Now, new information has been revealed about the soon-to-be-arraigned Lugo. As the NJ.com reports (but we only found this thanks to the Chron’s Paolo Lucchesi), Lugo allegedly liked to mix business with pleasure.
The former BLT Fish sommelier and Per Se staffer had been previously charged with stealing three bottles of wine from Gary’s Wine and Marketplace in Wayne, NJ.
These weren’t two-buck-Chuck desperation steals, either. The rare bottles of 2006 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, valued at $2,000 each, made for quite the alleged $6000 steal for Lugo.
Owner Robert Lesnick discovered the suspect by checking security tapes (again!) and outdoor surveillance. A rather pristine image of Lugo pointed the crime at him so when Lugo reappeared in the store later in the month, Lesnick confronted the man, who allegedly gave Lesnick a fake name and fled.
But before Lugo faces his NJ charges of “unlawfully taking moveable property, a third degree charge,” he’s got to face the music (and probably even more security cameras) here in San Francisco, where he’s facing one felony count of grand theft and one felony count of second-degree burglary.
Lugo, whose bail has been set at $5 million, is scheduled to appear in court again tomorrow, where, his lawyer told the Ex, he will plead not guilty.
Update 2:20: Oh man, this story gets weirder and weirder — according to the Chron, Lugo, who his attorney says might be suffering from psychiatric problems, had an apartment full of stolen artworks. Check out their story.