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, 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.