In the days before he fled the country, rape suspect Andrew Luster wired money from a trust fund and placed long-distance calls that authorities now believe were part of a plan to skip town and avoid prosecution.
According to search warrants released Tuesday, Luster tried to cover his tracks by removing the hard drive on his computer.
After Luster fled, his friends told investigators they saw no indication that he planned to leave the country. Yet they speculated that Luster likely fled to South America or the South Pacific, and described him as a meticulous planner who probably made his escape arrangements quietly.
Luster, 39, a great-grandson to cosmetics legend Max Factor, was caught by a bounty hunter in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, five months after he fled trial on charges that he drugged and raped three women at his Ventura County beach house.
He is now serving a 124-year prison sentence after a jury found him guilty on multiple counts of rape.
After Luster's flight, investigators with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and district attorney's office obtained at least two dozen warrants in their search for him.
At a court hearing this week, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Edward Brodie ordered that most of those warrants remain confidential pending an ongoing FBI investigation into who may have aided Luster. Prosecutors agreed to release seven warrants, copies of which were made available Tuesday.
The documents reveal few new details, but indicate Luster wired an unspecified amount of money from a trust account shortly before he ran. The documents also show that investigators focused on Luster's mother and at least one friend whom he contacted just before he fled.
Luster was arrested in July 2000 on suspicion of raping a UC Santa Barbara student, but later was released on $1-million bail.
Before trial, the terms of Luster's bail release required that he remain under house arrest and wear an electronic monitoring device. Luster was permitted to leave his Mussel Shoals residence for a few hours each day to prepare for trial.
On the morning of Jan. 3, Luster left his house and never returned. Investigators searched the house and obtained warrants for Luster's phone records, as well as his credit card and investment accounts.
At the same time, investigators seized computer equipment at Luster's house. They were looking for e-mails, Web sites he visited or writings that might have revealed travel plans. But the hard drive had been removed.
As the search continued, investigators set up a phone trap on all incoming and outgoing calls at the Malibu home of Luster's mother, Elizabeth, documents show.
Senior Deputy Ian Laughlin noticed that an international call was placed from Elizabeth Luster's house to a number in Bajamar, Mexico, on Jan. 15. A detective called the number in Mexico and a woman who answered the phone told him it was a residential number, records show.
Investigators also tracked long-distance calls placed by Luster before he ran, including a 19-minute call to a friend in Massachusetts, Vincent Gillespie.
The warrant states that Gillespie's car was found parked outside Luster's beach house at the time he failed to appear in court, and the trap on Elizabeth Luster's phone line revealed she received three calls from Gillespie after Luster fled.
Authorities also interviewed Luster's ex-girlfriend, Valerie Balderama, who has two children with Luster.
According to the warrants, Balderama told investigators she was reluctant to speak about the case because she was financially supported by Luster's mother, but she said she did not know his whereabouts.