Sommelier Art Thief Confesses to $350,000 Leger Heist

Sommelier Art Thief Confesses to $350,000 Leger Heist
Mark Lugo strolls down the street with Picasso's ”Tete de Femme" underarm
(Courtesy Lefty O’Doul’s)

Sommelier-turned-art-thief Mark Lugo became infamous after he strolled out of San Francisco’s Weinstein gallery with a $200,000 Picasso drawing, and was later found to be harboring a stash of stolen art at his Jersey apartment (his “collection,” valued at more than $430,000 included works by artists ranging from Basquiat to Yoshitomo Nara.) Yesterday, he at last pleaded guilty to art theft in New York. 

After serving time in California for the Picasso theft, Lugo has now confessed to taking a sketch by Ferdinand Leger from the lobby of New York’s Carlyle Hotel last June, valued at some $350,000 (He had previously pleaded innocent, back in December.) The sommelier will be sentenced on February 28 with an expected punishment of one to three years in prison. Lugo’s New York lawyer, James Montgomery, told the New York Times that Lugo “could be released in less than a year if he completes a prison program.”

Lugo has indicated that his bizarre string of art thefts, all of which took place within a relatively short period of time last year, was not motivated by the possibility of selling the work — it was, apparently, simply out of a refined aesthetic sensibility and enjoyment of the finer things that the sommelier took the artworks (Lugo is also thought to have pilfered three bottles of Château Petrus Pomerol, valued at a total of $6,000, from a Jersey wine store last spring). His California attorney Douglas Horngrad told ARTINFO in August 2011 that his months-long crime spree suggested he was “having some psychiatric episode, some compulsion, some mania.”