Picasso Thief Caught, Worked At NYC's Per Se Restaurant

Police have arrested the Picasso Doodle Bandit — who walked into a San Francisco gallery over the July 4th weekend, and walked out with a $200,000 work of art — and surprise! He's from New York. The work has been returned to its rightful owner, and has been unharmed.

Mark Lugo, 30, is actually a resident of New Jersey, and had virtually no criminal history before this heist, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Amazingly enough, he's made a career for himself working in a number of extremely high-end New York dining establishments, including as a wine steward at BLT Fish in the Flatiron district, and before that, a waiter at Per Se, Thomas Keller's three-Michelin-star restaurant.

The robbery was unbelievably brazen, and nearly went off without a hitch. Working alone, Lugo sauntered into Union Square's Weinstein Gallery, lifted Picasso's "Tête de Femme (Head of a Woman)" off the wall, and walked outside and into a cab, which took him to the Hotel Palomar. He then boxed it and planned to ship it off to an unknown party, but not before he spent a relaxing evening with a number of friends in Napa, who were unaware of what he had just done.

The taxi driver, meanwhile, led police to the hotel and then to Napa, where they identified him using surveillance footage captured by a bar located near the scene of the crime. Police arrested him at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, at his friends' Napa apartment. The drawing was still boxed, awaiting shipment. It's in perfect condition.

Lugo was booked on suspicion of burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and drug possession (they found an as-yet-unidentified drug among his belongings). He's being held on $5 million bail. [SF Chronicle, images via SF Chronicle]