Andrew Luster: Caught
Correspondent Troy Roberts reports on a dangerous charmer who's been riding a wave of good fortune his whole life. But now, the tide has turned.
Anyone who knows Andrew Luster could usually find him around the Santa Barbara club scene, or catching the perfect point break on the Pacific coast.
But in January, one of the descendants of a famous Hollywood family vanished, becoming the focus of an international manhunt.
His timing could not have been more dramatic: Luster left a little more than two weeks into his trial. Three women had accused him of 87 counts, ranging from poisoning, to sexual battery, to rape.
The story began in the small seaside community of Mussel Shoals, Calif. Luster invited many women to his beach house, women who never suspected what would occur inside.
Authorities say Luster charmed his victims, drugged them, and then sexually assaulted them. But the women would never have learned what happened to them, if Luster hadn't done something else that would eventually come back to haunt him. He recorded the scenes in his bedroom - complete with music — and literally caught himself on tape.
What does Luster, 39, have to say for himself? 48 Hours Investigates has the only interview conducted before he went on the lam.
Last fall, while he was free on $1 million bail, he talked exclusively to Correspondent Troy Roberts.
Luster denied the charges, and said he never sexually assaulted any woman, or sexually assaulted any woman while she was unconscious. He says the tapes show only consensual sex.
Until his criminal case, Luster had been living a seemingly carefree life. He is the great-grandson of cosmetics magnate Max Factor. In the early 1900's, Factor emigrated to America and headed for California, just when the movie business was getting hot. His revolutionary makeup formula made the most famous faces look glamorous on film. Factor marketed his makeup and became a true American success story: The company eventually sold for more than $480 million.
Over the years, the Factors shared their fortune with their family: One of them was a granddaughter named Elizabeth. She and her son Andrew would eventually lead a life of privilege on Malibu Beach.
As a child, his mother says, Andrew was affectionate and friendly. But his childhood was less than perfect: when he was nine, his father, a respected Los Angeles psychiatrist, died of emphysema.
Luster went to college, but dropped out before earning a degree. Instead, he bought a beach house in an exclusive community near Santa Barbara and graduated to a life of leisure. He never had to work for a living, but pursued his interests: surfing, fishing and women.
"I love women. And a number of women have shown their affection for me, and it's been fine up to July of 2000," he told Roberts.
According to prosecutors Maeve Fox and Anthony Wold, one summer night, three years ago, Luster worked his charms on the wrong woman.
At a local bar called O'Malley's, Luster met a 21-year-old college student named Carrie. That evening, she was with another young student named David.
When the bars closed, Andrew, one of his friends, Carrie, and David ended up driving back to Luster's beach house. On the way, Carrie had sex with David in the back seat.
"I did hear a warning voice in the back of my head that said, you know these are people you just met. They're having sex in the back seat of your car. This is a little strange," says Luster.
But the party continued. At the house, Luster mixed cocktails for the group. That night, Luster says he and Carrie had consensual sex in the shower and in the bedroom. The next morning, they had sex again. "She liked it. And she was very enthusiastic about it," says Luster. He drove her back to campus, and they exchanged phone numbers.
But a few days later, when Carrie called Andrew, it wasn't just to arrange another date. Carrie believed she had been raped, and had reported the incident to police. The police were coaching her on what to say during her phone call to Andrew - and they recorded it.
"Dude, what did you put in my drink?" Carrie asked Luster during the call.
"Liquid X," Luster told her. Liquid X is a street name for GHB. GHB is a recreational drug, a powerful sedative that can induce euphoria, but in large doses can put the user into a coma-like state.
"GHB is Mr. Luster's weapon of choice. And he used it to great success," says Fox.
By the end of the phone call, Carrie arranged to meet up with Andrew after class the next day.
Carrie said: "You don't have to drug me to have sex with me this time. Okay?"
"I promise I won't," Luster said.
Carrie didn't show up at Luster's house the following day. Instead detectives from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office did. Luster was arrested and charged with rape.
He eventually admitted to the police that he had given her GHB once that night. But that was the least of his problems. When police searched Andrew's house, they found videotapes that suggested that Luster may have had other victims.
One of them is Shawna, who met Andrew on the beach when she was a sophomore in high school. She only saw him occasionally. One evening, when she was 17, Andrew invited her for drinks.
She says the last thing she remembers was feeling sick, and needing to lay down. While she was passed out, Luster had sex with her, and recorded what he had done on tape.
But Shawna wasn't the only one. Tonja, one of Luster's former girlfriends, is also a victim.
In October 1996, Tonja, then 23, was visiting her sister in Santa Barbara. They met Luster at a bar there. She thought he was charming. She accepted an invitation to go for more drinks at Andrew's house. At the house, they had cocktails and conversation in Luster's Jacuzzi.
Later that evening, Tonja was offered a drink of something she had never heard of before: GHB. She remembers becoming talkative, and then she passed out.
The next morning, Tonja woke up, fully clothed in Andrew's bed. He told her he had carried her into the bed, but had slept elsewhere.
Tonja dismissed her suspicions because she was taken with Luster. She had been living in Arizona at the time, but within a few weeks of meeting, she moved in with him.
After four months, the relationship went sour. "One of the scarier things that I can share with you is that he had, in one of the back room, back room areas of his house a collage on his wall of various pix of various women, scantily dressed in either panties and a bra or bikini," says Tonja.
"I said I wasn't comfortable with it. And shortly before I decided to move out, I walked past that wall and my picture was added to the collage. And I tell you, it gave me the creeps. I ripped it off the wall immediately of course. And I ripped off a couple of other pictures too while I was at it. And he told me, if I ever did that again he'd kill me."
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