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Max Factor Heir to Be Charged in 3rd Rape and Videotape Case

Courts: Andrew Luster, great-grandson of the company's founder, is accused of drugging and assaulting three women.

July 26, 2000|TRACY WILSON and TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

An heir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune, already in jail on suspicion of two rapes, will be charged today with attacking a third woman who reporting being drugged, raped and videotaped at his seaside home, Ventura County prosecutors said.

Sheriff's Department officials have fielded more than a dozen calls from other women and are now stepping up their investigation into the activities of Andrew Stuart Luster, 36, an avid surfer who lives near Ventura on a trust fund started by his great-grandfather, the cosmetics company founder.

"We're following up on the other calls we've received," said department spokesman Eric Nishimoto. "We're starting to look at other counties in the state as well as Nevada."

Law enforcement officials say they expect additional victims to come forward.

"It's kind of like we've just scratched the surface," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Becky Day, who plans to file additional rape charges against Luster today in connection with the third alleged videotaped sexual assault.

Day said she also plans to file a motion to increase Luster's $1-million bail on the grounds that he poses a significant threat to the community.

"We will be filing charges before the arraignment," Day said. "We believe he is a flight risk and a danger to the public."

Luster was arrested Thursday on suspicion of drugging and raping a 21-year-old Santa Barbara woman he had met at a bar and taken to his home on Ocean Avenue in the tiny community of Mussel Shoals, a few miles up the coast from Ventura.

The woman told authorities that Luster served her an alcoholic beverage that he later claimed to have spiked with Liquid X, a slang term for a drug known as GHB, or gamma hydroxybutrate.

While searching Luster's home, authorities said, they seized vials of an unidentified liquid that they suspect is GHB. They said they also found photographs and homemade videos depicting at least five sedated or unconscious women involved in sex acts.

Authorities suspect that the women were victims of sexual assaults, and in one case have charged Luster with a Dec. 2, 1997, rape of an unidentified woman shown on one of the videotapes.

Luster appeared Monday in Ventura County Superior Court to answer a 21-count complaint alleging that he drugged, raped and unlawfully videotaped that woman and the Santa Barbara woman. He did not enter a plea, and an arraignment was set for Tuesday.

The third alleged victim, a 27-year-old former girlfriend, came forward after seeing media reports of Luster's arrest. She told detectives Monday that she also was drugged and sexually assaulted by Luster.

Detectives said they allowed her to view portions of one videotape taken from Luster's home in which she is shown. Authorities said she told investigators she never gave permission to be videotaped.

Based on her statements, detectives rearrested Luster at the Ventura County Main Jail. His arraignment in that case is set for this afternoon in Superior Court.

Luster's attorney, Joel Isaacson, called the charges against his client "bogus." "The police keep filing new charges against him, but we haven't received any substantive information or reports as of yet," the lawyer said.

Authorities said Luster is a frequent patron of bars in both Isla Vista near the UC Santa Barbara campus and along State Street in Santa Barbara.

A source close to Luster's family said Tuesday that he grew up near Santa Monica, attended Santa Barbara City College and has lived in an oceanfront home in Mussel Shoals for 18 years.

Never married, Luster has traveled extensively, according to a representative hired by the family.

Neighbors of Luster said he has a young son. They described him as an avid surfer who often takes surfing trips to Mexico.

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