PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – A convicted rapist who is heir to the Max Factor (search) fortune was arrested Wednesday after five months on the run, picked up by Mexican police as he scuffled with bounty hunters who trailed him from California to this seaside resort.
Before dawn, the bounty hunters chased Andrew Luster (search) in his car and managed to stop him, and a loud fight followed as they dragged him from his car, investigator Jose Barrera Lopez said. Neighbors called police to complain about the noise.
With the 39-year-old Luster in tow, the group headed out of town in two cars, apparently on their way to the United States, but were stopped by police outside of town. Luster initially gave police a false name, but later revealed his true identity.
Luster -- dressed in a blue shirt and jeans and sporting a goatee grown since he jumped bail -- nervously wrung his hands and ran his hands through his hair as police led him into a public area of the Puerto Vallarta (search) station so that an Associated Press reporter could photograph him.
"I need help because they are trying to harm me," he said, referring to the bounty hunters.
An American couple, who socialized with Luster in Puerto Vallarta, tipped off both the FBI and a bounty hunter to Luster's whereabouts after returning to the United States and seeing his picture on television as a wanted fugitive, FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley said in Los Angeles.
Luster spent the last days before his arrest surfing, returning in the evenings to a $35-a-night hotel room next door to the federal justice department's local office, according to deputy hotel manager Oscar Lopez. Lopez gave Luster a discount because he had stayed there the year before.
"He seemed Mexican," Lopez said. "He spoke (Spanish) very well."
FBI officials were expected to bring Luster to the United States later Wednesday, police official Irwin Ramirez Castellon said. The U.S. consul to Puerto Vallarta, Kelly Trainor, was seen arriving at the police station where Luster was detained, but did not make a statement.
Luster was later led by police to jail van and driven off to be handed over to Mexican federal officials. Wednesday night federal agents flew Luster to Mexico City, the federal justice department said.
The capture ended a hunt that began in January, when Luster -- great-grandson of makeup legend Max Factor -- disappeared during a recess in his trial on accusations he drugged three women and raped them in his home between 1996 and 2000.
The California court went on to sentence Luster in absentia to 124 years for multiple counts of rape, poisoning and drug possession.
After the arrest Wednesday, Luster and the five other foreigners -- three bounty hunters and two members of a television crew -- faced charges of being in the country illegally, Ramirez said. He said the five would be released on bail within two days.
One of the alleged bounty hunters, who identified himself as Duane Chapman, shouted to reporters that police were treating him well.
Chapman announced to news media in April that he was joining the search for Luster, saying he would seek to collect a portion of Luster's forfeited bail.
Authorities in California said the bounty hunters were not acting on behalf of police or the courts.
Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks said that despite much mention of Luster's forfeited bail, anything the bounty hunter might collect would be far less.
"Our understanding is that none of the bail money would be going to the bounty hunter," he said. "There was a $10,000 reward, put up half by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, half by the sheriff's office, that would possibly be eligible for the person that assisted us."
Asked about whether that money would cover the bounty hunter's costs, the sheriff said, "Absolutely not. So there has to be some other sponsoring organization or person who gave him some money to finance this, I would suspect."
The television crew said it was from the "America's Most Wanted" television program.
Bounty hunting is considered illegal kidnapping under Mexican law. Barrera said it was not clear whether federal authorities would file additional charges against the bounty hunters.
Barry Novack, an attorney for one of Luster's alleged victims -- identified only as "Shauna Doe" -- said his client was "thrilled" to hear of the arrest. Shauna Doe testified in the criminal case and is suing Luster for sexual assault.
"Shauna has not been able to escape from the torment that she went through," Novack said. "Now we're waiting for civil justice to be done by bringing him to account for the terrible things he did to her and to the other women."
According to prosecutors, Luster -- who lived off a trust fund and real estate investments -- took three women to his Mussel Shoals home in 1996, 1997 and 2000 and raped them after giving them the so-called date-rape drug GHB. He was arrested in 2000 after a 21-year-old college student told police he had drugged and assaulted her.
A search of his home turned up videotapes of Luster having sex with women who appeared to be either asleep or unconscious. In one tape played in court after he disappeared, Luster is seen on camera having sex with a woman and declaring: "That's exactly what I like in my room: A passed-out beautiful girl."
His attorneys said the sex was consensual, suggesting the women were feigning sleep to help him film pornographic movies. They also disputed that Luster was a fugitive and suggested he could have been abducted or involved in an accident.
He skipped $1 million bail and fled on Jan. 3 in his sport utility vehicle, taking his collection of Chumash Indian artifacts.
Just last week, a California appellate court turned aside the appeal of Luster's conviction, saying he had forfeited his right to appeal by jumping bail. The California Supreme Court is expected to be asked to review the decision.