Bizarre Saga of Real Estate Tycoon and Art Scammer Finally Over

"Not So Lucky Luke" Brugnara

The bizarre, often outrageous case of “Lucky Luke” Brugnara is finally over. As ABC 7 reports, the former real estate tycoon has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison, capping off a flamboyant saga of art scams, jailhouse escapes, and courtroom theatrics.

[jump] Brugnara, a San Francisco native who made a fortune snapping up commercial office buildings in the city, along with casinos and shopping plazas in Las Vegas (and a mansion once leased to singer Michael Jackson), has a checkered legal history.

Per ABC 7, Brugnara pleaded guilty to “filing false tax returns, failing to report $45 million in capital gains, and violating the Endangered Species Act for poaching steelhead trout on his land in Gilroy.” In 2010, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Last year, Brugnara brokered a deal to buy $11 million worth of art from a dealer in Tennessee (the art was shipped from New York City). After the art arrived at his Sea Cliff mansion, however, Brugnara refused to pay for it, reportedly texting the art dealer that the delivery was a “gift.”

The FBI later raided Brugnara’s mansion and recovered everything except a Degas statue valued at $3 million (a judge has put the value at $600,000).

In February, Brugnara escaped from jail during a meeting with his attorney. “I had to go seek medical attention from a nurse,” Brugnara told ABC 7, saying he’d lost 100 pounds due to his poor jailhouse diet.

Brugnara acted as his own attorney during a trial that witnesses described as full of “screaming tirades” and “threatening gestures” — so much so that Brugnara got 471 days for contempt.

As ABC 7 reports, Brugnara maintains his innocence and says he has no idea what happened to the missing Degas. 

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