Earlier this summer, NJ resident Mark Lugo was spotted on surveillance video stealing a Picasso sketch from a San Francisco gallery. And inside his Hoboken apartment, police found 19 artworks, including a Fernand Léger 1917 drawing, "Composition aux element mecaniques," worth $350,000, taken from NYC hotels and galleries. Yesterday, in a Manhattan court, Lugo pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny and possession of stolen property related to six pieces.
Manhattan DA Cy Vance said in a statement, "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." The Manhattan DA's office has charged Lugo for stealing the Leger from a gallery at the Carlyle Hotel and five paintings, "Pastel on Board," by Mie Yim worth about $9,000. The DA's office is also looking into the origins of the other paintings.
While Lugo, who had worked as a sommelier at BLT Fish, pleaded guilty to the San Francisco theft, his court-appointed lawyer in NYC, James Montgomery, said, "I think it’s more than just liking art. I think time will show that Mr. Lugo is someone who has been struggling with particular difficulties and went through a very difficult six-week-to-two-month period," adding, "If he was the person who was removing these paintings, he wasn't doing it for financial gain."
Lugo is also accused of stealing $6,000 in wine from NJ stores.