U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of California
(415) 436-7200
October 21, 2015

Former San Francisco Real Estate Tycoon Sentenced to Seven Years’ Imprisonment for Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Making False Declarations, Escape, and Contempt

SAN FRANCISCO—Luke D. Brugnara was sentenced yesterday to seven years in prison after his conviction for mail fraud, wire fraud, false declarations to a court, escape, and contempt of court, announced Acting United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson, and U.S. Marshal Don O’Keefe.

Brugnara, 52, of San Francisco, was originally charged with fraud in a criminal complaint filed May 27, 2014. The criminal complaint described Brugnara’s refusal to pay for several pieces of art after he convinced a New York art dealer to ship the art to his California home. Brugnara was arrested on May 28, 2014, but then escaped from custody of his lawyer on February 5, 2015. He was apprehended six days later and stood trial beginning April 27, 2015. Brugnara waived his right to counsel and conducted the trial as a pro se defendant with the assistance of two attorneys appointed as advisory counsel. On May 19, 2015, the jury convicted Brugnara of three counts of wire and mail fraud, one count of making false declarations to a court, one count of escape, and one count of contempt.

Evidence at trial showed that, in late March and early April 2014, Brugnara told the art dealer that he would pay approximately $11 million for works of art. Based on his representations that he would pay for the artwork and put it in a museum, the artwork was shipped to Brugnara at his house in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco. The evidence at trial demonstrated that the artwork was delivered in five wooden crates to Brugnara’s residence on April 7, 2014. When the artwork arrived, Brugnara refused to pay for it, return it, or inspect it, and told the art dealer that she had given the artwork to him as a gift. Eventually, the art dealer reported the crime to the FBI, which executed a search warrant at Brugnara’s residence in late May 2014. During the search, the FBI recovered only four of the five crates of artwork. The fifth crate, containing a “Little Dancer” sculpture by Edgar Degas, was never recovered. Evidence at trial also demonstrated that defendant had lied in testimony at an evidentiary hearing, and that he had absconded from a furlough to the federal building, in violation of a court order.

The sentence was handed down by the Honorable William H. Alsup, U.S. District Judge. In addition to the prison term, Judge Alsup sentenced Brugnara to three years’ supervised release and approximately $688,000 in restitution. Brugnara will begin serving his sentence immediately.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robin Harris and Benjamin Kingsley are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Denise Oki, Jessica Meegan, and Trina Khadoo. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshal Service.

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