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Thief strolled out of art show with €195k Picasso

A MAN who walked out of an art gallery with a pencil sketch by Pablo Picasso worth €195,000 has pleaded guilty to theft.

Workers at the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco 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 €305,000.

As well as other work by Picasso and Fernand Leger, there were three bottles of Chateau Petrus Pomerol wine worth €4,250, 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 worked at upmarket Manhattan restaurants and as a wine steward, admitted theft in a plea deal.

His lawyer, Douglas Horngrad, said the case had been overblown.

"Now that all the hoopla has died down, he'll serve the time that reflects the conduct," he said. "Nobody was killed, nobody was assaulted; this was not the crime of the century."