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 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 08:09 GMT
Max Factor heir 'flees' sex trial
Andrew Luster
Mr Luster was allowed out of jail on $1m bail
Police in California are hunting an heir to the multi-million dollar Max Factor cosmetics fortune.

Andrew Luster, who faces 87 charges relating to date rape, has disappeared in the middle of his trial.

ANDREW LUSTER
Great grandson of cosmetics mogul Max Factor
Arrested in July 2000
Bail initially set at $10m, reduced to $1m
Trial on 87 sex charges began 16 December, 2002
The 39-year-old has been declared a fugitive after he jumped his million-dollar bail over the weekend.

Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten said in a written statement that police suspected Mr Luster had fled after he failed to check in with a probation officer on Friday night, as required under the terms of his house arrest.

A search revealed he had disappeared from his beachfront home along with his dog, his car and many of his personal possessions, Mr Totten added.

Mr Luster faces multiple rape charges and stands accused of drugging his victims and then videotaping his assaults.

Flight is inconsistent with everything I know about him

Roger Jon Diamond
Lawyer for Andrew Luster
His lawyer, Roger Jon Diamond, told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that he did not believe his client would run away.

He said he feared he may have been in a car accident.

"Flight is inconsistent with everything I know about him," Mr Diamond said of the make-up heir.

Bail was initially set at $10m after prosecutors argued that Mr Luster might flee.

It was later reduced to $1m, which was deposited by Mr Luster and his mother.

'Unconscious women'

The great grandson of Max Factor, Mr Luster was arrested after a woman he met went to the police alleging he had spiked her drink with the so-called "date rape" drug, Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB).

When detectives raided his home, they say they found 17 videotapes or Mr Luster having sex with apparently unconscious women, many of whom have yet to be identified.

Detectives were reportedly investigating whether he could have been part of an international ring of playboy millionaires said to be known as the Bachelors, who trade film of their date rape attacks over the internet.

Several years ago a British woman claimed that she had fallen victim to such a gang, telling police she had been raped in a London hotel after GHB was slipped into her drink.

Mr Luster has consistently denied the charges against him, claiming the women on the videotapes were engaged in consensual sex.

He had been under house arrest for the last two years pending his trial.

The judge has now decided the trial will continue without him and, if found guilty, Mr Luster faces life imprisonment.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's David Willis
"The authorities are completely flummoxed by Andrew Luster's disappearance"
See also:

02 Aug 00 | Americas
17 May 00 | UK
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