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Armed Robbers Steal Picasso Prints In Brazil

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SAO PAULO, Brazil — Three armed robbers stole two Pablo Picasso prints from an art museum in downtown Sao Paulo on Thursday, the city's second high-profile art theft in less than a year.

The bandits also took two oil paintings by well-known Brazilian artists Emiliano Di Cavalcanti and Lasar Segall, said Carla Regina, a spokeswoman for the Pinacoteca do Estado museum.

The Picasso prints stolen were "The Painter and the Model" from 1963 and "Minotaur, Drinker and Women" from 1933, according to a statement from the Sao Paulo Secretary of State for Culture, which oversees the museum.

The prints and paintings have a combined value of $612,000, the statement and a museum official said.

About noon, three armed men paid the $2.45 entrance fee and immediately went to the second-floor gallery where the works were being exhibited, bypassing more valuable pieces, authorities said.

"This indicates to us that they probably received an order" to take those specific works, Youssef Abou Chain, head of Sao Paulo's organized crime unit, told reporters at a news conference

The assailants overpowered three unarmed museum guards and grabbed the works, officials said. The robbery took about 10 minutes and the museum was nearly empty at the time.

The assailants took the pieces _ frames and all _ out of the museum in two bags. The institution has no metal detectors.

In December, Picasso's "Portrait of Suzanne Bloch" and "O Lavrador de Cafe" by Candido Portinari, an influential Brazilian artist, were stolen from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art by three men who used a crowbar and car jack to force open one of the museum's steel doors.

The framed paintings were found Jan. 8, covered in plastic and leaning against a wall in a house on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, South America's largest city.

One of the suspects in that heist _ a former TV chef _ turned himself over to police in January, who already had two suspects in custody.