- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A New Jersey man accused of stealing a valuable Picasso from a San Francisco art gallery pleaded not guilty Friday to grand theft and burglary charges.

Mark Lugo entered his plea in Superior Court in connection with the July 5 theft of a 1965 drawing worth more than $200,000 from the Weinstein Gallery in downtown San Francisco.

Lugo also faces charges in connection with stealing artwork and wine in New York and New Jersey.

In San Francisco, Lugo’s request to have his bail reduced from $5 million to $2 million was denied. Judge Samuel Feng said the 30-year-old suspect is charged with a “brazen” crime and poses a threat to public safety.

Lugo’s attorney, Douglas Horngrad, had argued that bail was set too high because of attention from “overhyped media.”

“There are murder cases in this county where bail is not set at $5 million,” Horngrad said.

But Assistant District Attorney Lindsey Chow said bail was appropriate since Lugo was accused in a crime spree that spread across multiple states.

Feng noted that the crimes involved highly valuable artwork and also ordered Lugo to surrender his passport.

Lugo remains in custody and is scheduled back in court on Aug. 23.

On July 6, San Francisco Bay Area authorities found the Picasso titled “Tete de Femme” _ Head of a Woman _ undamaged, unframed and prepped in Napa to be shipped to an undisclosed location.

Surveillance video from a nearby San Francisco restaurant showed a man matching Lugo’s description walking by with a piece of framed artwork covered by a newspaper under his arm, police said.

After the drawing was snatched, police said, Lugo took a taxi to a nearby luxury hotel. He was later arrested at an apartment in Napa where he was visiting friends.

Meanwhile, authorities said Thursday they found $500,000 worth of artwork reported stolen from New York galleries and hotels in Lugo’s apartment in Hoboken, N.J.

Lugo, who has worked as a sommelier in upscale Manhattan restaurants, also faces charges in New Jersey in connection with the theft of $6,000 worth of wine from a retail cellar in April.

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