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Alleged Art-Thief Fugitive Back in the Hoosegow

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Accused art thief Luke Brugnara is back in federal custody after a six-day manhunt ended in his arrest at a Los Gatos, Calif., apartment complex.

Brugnara, 51, fled the San Francisco Federal Building on Thursday, Feb. 3, during a scheduled meeting with his attorney under a controversial arrangement approved late last year by U.S. District Judge William Alsup.

Alsup's furlough order allowed him to leave his cell in Glenn Dyer jail in Oakland where he was being held, change into street clothes and meet with attorney Erik Babcock. They met in the 18th floor attorney's lounge in the San Francisco Federal Building to prepare for his upcoming fraud trial.

Although Alsup had ordered Babcock to keep a close watch on his client, Brugnara somehow managed to give Babcock the slip and flee the building.

Babcock has since said he would like to withdraw as Brugnara's counsel, considering the likelihood that prosecutors would call on him to testify.

At a hearing on Monday, Alsup said he was certain Brugnara would be apprehended.

Brugnara, a former real estate mogul, was indicted in June 2014 for mail fraud, having allegedly ordered and received more than $11 million worth of art, including a $3 million Edgar Degas sculpture, for an art museum he said he was planning to build in San Francisco. When the New York art dealer demanded payment, Brugnara later claimed the art had been a "gift."

He has previously served time in federal prison for tax evasion and trout-poaching.

The alleged con man appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero on Thursday, who denied his request for bail and revoked his furlough privileges.

Brugnara is due to appear before Alsup again on Tuesday, Feb. 17.


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