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Imprisoned real estate tycoon’s Sea Cliff mansion asks $19.6 million

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The same house was previously used to store millions in stolen art

Courtesy Mark Allan Levinson

It seems 2016 couldn’t end without at least one more you-can’t-make-this-up story.

In this case, the onetime Sea Cliff house of San Francisco real estate tycoon turned convicted fraudster Luke Brugnara listed on Friday, asking a remarkable $19.6 million, making it the city’s second most expensive publicly listed home.

Brugnara, or “Lucky Luke” as he was known (a nickname that has presumably declined in value recently), made a fortune in Las Vegas real estate and here in his hometown of San Francisco.

But starting at the turn of the century a series of legal problems over everything from his taxes to his trout poaching cast a pall over his success.

In 2014 the FBI arrested Brugnara on mail fraud charges over millions of dollars worth of classic art (including an Edgar Degas statue that’s still missing), which a New York dealer delivered to his 224 Seacliff Avenue residence but which Brugnara apparently never paid for.

Brugnara (who was briefly on the FBI’s Most Wanted List after going on the lam for a week in early 2015) insisted that the masterpieces were fakes and that he withheld payment while trying to return them.

The argument didn’t hold up, and Lucky Luke is now one year into a seven year prison sentence.

Which brings us back to his six bed, five bath, 6,650 square foot Mediterranean style home circa 1926 on Seacliff Ave.

This was the very home where Brugnara stored the artworks that unraveled his life. Interestingly, it’s also where actor Cheech Marin lived while he was filming the San Francisco-based show Nash Bridges.

The deed is presently in the hands not of Brugnara himself but his company, Brugnara Properties. Brugnara bought the place for $7 million in 2002 (the equivalent of about $9.4 million today).

The old soldier looks like it’s seen better days, as its fading, patched stucco and ill-considered basketball hoop don’t do it any favors from the curb or the rear.

The voluminous number of liens on the property in the last year suggest it’s not just an exterior problem.

Realtor Mark Allan Levinson makes the case for it as a grand fixer-upper: “I’d call it more of a shell right now. It’s in very tired condition, but good for someone who wants to make it their own.”

The location and the pedigree of its facade and frame are its principle value now, as an old home of enormous proportions in one of San Francisco’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

“It’s wide to the street, and it’s got an amazing Great Wall of China staircase down to what is ostensibly a private cove—not technically private, but very secluded,” Levinson adds.

Because of the conditions, no interior photographs are available. The only way to check it out is to take the tour.

Despite its woes, it is a classic San Francisco home, and it would be nice to see someone clear out the ghosts of its past.


Watch: A Daring Concrete Home on a Los Angeles Cliff