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Man admits gallery Picasso theft

A man who walked out of a San Francisco art gallery with a pencil sketch by Pablo Picasso worth £172,000 has pleaded guilty to grand theft.

Workers at the Weinstein Gallery said Mark Lugo brazenly snatched the drawing, called Tete de Femme (Head of A Woman), from a wall of their gallery on July 5. Lugo then walked down the street and got into a cab with the sketch under his arm.

But quick police work, video surveillance cameras and an alert taxi driver led to his arrest within 24 hours.

When investigators searched Lugo's apartment in New Jersey, they uncovered a treasure trove of stolen art worth around £269,000.

The other stolen works found included another Picasso painting worth £18,700, a Fernand Leger sketch valued at £219,000 and three bottles of Chateau Petrus Pomerol wine worth £3,750, San Francisco district attorney George Gascon said.

"This is a person who definitely had a taste for the finer things, and he didn't like to pay for them," Mr Gascon said.

Lugo, 30, who investigators said worked at upmarket Manhattan restaurants and as a wine steward, admitted grand theft in the San Francisco case. Under terms of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop other charges, including burglary.

The deal allows for Lugo to be released on his sentencing date, November 21, after getting credit for time already served.

His lawyer, Douglas Horngrad, said Lugo would then be extradited to New York to face similar charges over art thefts there.

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