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Alleged Picasso art thief’s passport seized, bail set at $5 million

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Alleged Picasso art thief Mark Lugo’s passport was seized Friday and a defense request to reduce his $5 million bail was denied after a San Francisco judge said he poses a safety risk to the nation’s businesses.

Lugo, 30, of Hoboken, N.J., pleaded not guilty to all charges in connection with the brazen heist of a Pablo Picasso sketch from a Union Square art gallery on July 5. Lugo is also facing charges on the East Coast after 11 stolen art works, including another Picasso, were found hanging on the walls and “laying about” his New Jersey apartment, according to cops who raided the pad on Tuesday.

Lugo’s attorney Douglas Horngrad requested to reduce his client’s bail by $2 million, saying even some murder suspects don’t have bail amounts that high and Lugo never physically harmed anybody.

Horngrad also cited a New Jersey newspaper report that quoted a cop involved in the apartment raid as saying it seemed Lugo was holding a personal art show, with no intent to sell the artwork.

The attorney said the media hype surrounding the case influenced Judge Samuel Feng’s decision to deny his motion to reduce bail.

The judge said the alleged art theft was "brazen," and that Lugo poses a risk to businesses in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Horngrad protested that his client has no criminal history prior to the alleged art heists, all of which he said occured in the last 45 days.

"That speaks more to a burst of compulsive energy than to someone who has the ability and sophistication to fence paintings," Horngrad said.

Lugo also faces charges in New Jersey on suspicion of shoplifting three bottles of wine worth $2,000 apiece in April. He failed to show up to a June court hearing on those charges.

On Thursday, Horngrad questioned his client’s sanity. He declined to comment Friday on whether he would pursue a mental health examination.

Lugo will appear for his next hearing in San Francisco court on Aug. 23.

maldax@sfexaminer.com