The abstract drawing, worth $275,000, was recovered undamaged after just two days on the lam.
And it may have been the description of a man wearing “loafers sans socks” that brought the thief to justice. After 30-year-old Mark Lugo from New Jersey was caught on a restaurant surveillance camera sporting Toms cloth shoes – and, oh yeah, a stolen Pablo Picasso sketch under his arm – police were able to track him down. He escaped a San Francisco art gallery with Picasso’s 1965 “Tête de Femme (Head of a Woman)” in his hands, wrapped in newspaper.
(LIST: Top 10 Most Expensive Auctions)
Lugo slipped out of the Weinstein Gallery unnoticed by any eye, human or photographic. But his fault rested in a stroll past Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant before hopping into a cab. The restaurant had a surveillance camera trained on the sidewalk. And upon reviewing the footage, the owner saw a man that fit the description of the thief, who was reported to be wearing a dark jacket and loafers without socks and carrying the small, 10.5-by-8.5 inch Picasso drawing. But by the time police were able to track Lugo down, he was nowhere near the gallery or Lefty O’Douls.
Police say he hopped into a cab and headed to a San Francisco hotel, leaving a short time later to stay with friends in Napa, where he was traced to and arrested. Authorities found that Lugo, who appeared to be a budding Thomas Crown, was planning to ship the painting, as it was packaged up and found without its frame.
But he was promptly arrested and the painting recovered unscathed. As for the $275,000 painting – given its escapist story and newfound glory – how much will the gallery sell it for now? Turns out this one might be priceless now. The gallery’s proprietor, Rowland Weinstein, plans to permanently install it in their collection because “it’s such a part of the city’s story.”