Picasso thief accused of stealing art from Manhattan hotels

Charges against Mark Lugo include grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

Story highlights

  • Mark Lugo was previously convicted of stealing a Picasso in San Francisco
  • He is accused of stealing six paintings from two Manhattan hotels
  • Eleven paintings found on the walls of his apartment were also stolen, police say
A New Jersey man previously convicted of stealing artwork was indicted Friday in the theft of nearly $360,000 worth of art from two Manhattan hotels, the Manhattan district attorney's office said.
Mark Lugo, 31, is accused of walking out of the Chambers Hotel with five paintings and the Carlyle Hotel with one, according to District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Charges against him include grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
"In an effort to display stolen art in his apartment, this repeat art thief boldly walked out of two Manhattan hotels in broad daylight with valuable paintings," Vance said.
Court documents say Lugo walked out of the Chambers Hotel on June 14 with a canvas tote carrying a set of five paintings by Mie Yim worth $1,800 each. Then, on June 28, he left the Carlyle Hotel with a canvas tote carrying a sketch titled "Composition with Mechanical Elements" by Fernand Leger, worth approximately $350,000.
Lugo just finished serving a 138-day sentence in California for stealing a pencil-on-paper Pablo Picasso sketch from a San Francisco gallery. He was found guilty 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 Woman," was drawn in 1965.
In July, police obtained a warrant for Lugo's Hoboken apartment, where they discovered 11 paintings on the walls, according to Hoboken Detective Sgt. Edwin Pantoja.
The works -- which included another Picasso piece -- were allegedly stolen from seven Manhattan galleries in June and July, according to a statement from New York Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
The 11 pieces have a combined value of more than $420,000, police said.
Lugo's San Francisco defense attorney, Douglas Horngrad, said his client appears to be "someone in the midst of a manic-compulsive exercise rather than an art thief," and added that Lugo "had no intention to sell the pieces."
Lugo will next appear in Manhattan court on January 10, according to the district attorney's office.