Fugitive Max Factor Heir Returns to United States
PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- Cosmetics heir and convicted rapist Andrew Luster was deported to the United States on Thursday, an FBI spokeswoman said. Luster, an heir to the Max Factor fortune, was put on a commercial flight, escorted by a Mexico-based FBI agent, and was expected to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport Thursday afternoon, said Los Angeles FBI office spokeswoman Laura Bosley. She said he would be turned over to Ventura County sheriff's officials. Mexican police arrested Luster on Wednesday after he scuffled with bounty hunters near a taco stand in the Pacific coast beach resort of Puerta Vallarta.
Immigration police held him because he did not have the proper visa to stay in the Mexico. In January, a California court convicted and sentenced Luster in absentia to 124 years for multiple counts of rape, poisoning and drug possession a few days after he vanished during a recess in the trial, despite posting $1 million in bail. Luster's attorney, Roger Diamond, said he planned to appeal the conviction on rape and other charges under a deadline that was to expire on Friday. Diamond said his client has always insisted he is innocent and that he had consensual sex with the women. "If you saw the movie 'The Fugitive' ... you will note that not everybody who flees is guilty," Diamond told the "Today" show on NBC.
The police also arrested five other Americans: three bounty hunters, a television cameraman and another man. Luster was staying at a $34-a-night hotel beside a police station in Puerto Vallarta and had just ordered tacos the street stall when bounty hunters tackled him. The bounty hunters, headed by Duane Lee Chapman - who calls himself "Dog" and claims to have collared thousands of fugitives - are being held in Puerto Vallarta and could face charges ranging from entering Mexico illegally to kidnapping. The three apparently included Chapman's son and grandson. Once he returns to California, Luster would be sent to state prison while he pursues his appeals just like any other convicted felon, his lawyer said. Local police spokesman Sebastian Zavala said Luster had been living in Puerto Vallarta for about a month.
Bounty hunters tracked him down shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday about two blocks from the beach at an open-air taco stand. "I didn't know if it was a kidnapping or a movie," said Alberto Franco, 26, who was working at the gas station across the street. Balbuena said the bounty hunters threatened Luster with tear gas, wrestled what appeared to be handcuffs on him and drove away in two cars. Franco said taxi drivers notified local police. Police intercepted the cars about 2 1/2 miles northwest of town and arrested everyone. Bounty hunter cases have been politically sensitive in Mexico since 1990, when American authorities employed them to kidnap a doctor accused of involvement in the torture and murder of Enrique Camarena, an agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
An American couple who met Luster in Puerto Vallarta saw his picture on television after they returned home and tipped off the FBI and a bounty hunter, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley. The FBI had an agent en route to Puerto Vallarta when the bounty hunters reached him first, agency spokesman, Matt Mclaughlin, told "The Early Show" on CBS. Luster apparently spent the days before his arrest surfing and staying at the Motel Los Angeles. The hotel manager, Oscar Lopez, described Luster as a "very cultured" and friendly man who spoke excellent Spanish. He gave the fugitive a discount because he had stayed there a year earlier. Police led Luster past the other detainees out of the city jail to a federal holding cell on Wednesday. One of the alleged bounty hunters, who identified himself as Chapman, shouted to reporters that police were treating him well and asked them to send greetings to his wife. Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks said he believed that none of the bail money would be going to the bounty hunter, who in previous television interviews had vowed to catch Luster. The men who captured the fugitive heir may be eligible to collect the $10,000 reward for his capture. Authorities said Luster, who lived off a trust fund and real estate investments, took three women to his home between 1996 and 2000 and raped them after giving them the so-called date-rape drug GHB. Some of the encounters were videotaped.