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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 24, 2003

Bounty hunter hopes to add cosmetics heir to résumé

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Hawai'i-based bounty hunter who said he has been involved in more than 6,000 captures is looking for California fugitive and cosmetics heir Andrew Luster, who is wanted for several rape convictions.

Bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman shows photos of his next target: California fugitive Andrew Luster.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Duane "Dog" Chapman, who has been a bounty hunter for 25 years, is one of many trying to find the 39-year-old Luster, a Max Factor heir who disappeared Jan. 6 during his California rape trial.

Luster was convicted in absentia Jan. 21 for 86 counts of rape and related charges for allegedly using the date-rape drug gamma hydroxybutyrate to render three women immobile at his Ventura County oceanfront home before sexually assaulting them. On Tuesday, a judge sentenced Luster to 124 years in prison.

Chapman, 50, flew back to the Mainland last week to try to find Luster, who federal law enforcement authorities believe could be hiding out in California, Mexico or Hawai'i.

"We've talked to family members of one of his victims, and this guy has got to be found," Chapman said from his downtown Honolulu office earlier this month. "It's a cat-and-mouse game, but someone will catch him."

State Deputy Sheriff Tommy Cayetano, who has tracked parole violators, said Chapman has been helpful to local law enforcement officers in catching numerous fugitives.

"He is one of the very few local bail bond operators who literally tracks down his own clients if they take off," said Cayetano, who has known Dog since 1990. "A lot of bail bondsman hire guys like Dog to look for the bail jumpers. If he can take some of the guys off the streets, then it makes our job a little easier. He's also managed to provide us tips on fugitives that he's not looking for."

Born and raised in Denver, Chapman knows what it's like to be on the other side of the chase. As a youth, he had his share of run-ins with the law from Colorado to Mexico, including 18 arrests for armed robbery.

Released 25 years ago from a Texas prison, a judge ordered Chapman to pay thousands of dollars in back child support payments. When Chapman said he didn't know how a former convict like himself could come up with the money, the judge suggested he track down fugitives for a living.

"I only needed about a week to find the first guy," Chapman said. "When I caught up with him, I tied him up with my belt and I took him back to the judge's court."

Chapman, co-owner of Da Kine Bail Bonds in Honolulu, has lived in Hawai'i since 1991. He visited here two years earlier as a seminar speaker with motivational speaker Anthony Robbins. Chapman now spends most of the year in the Islands, and the rest of the time chasing fugitives in Denver and Los Angeles.

Chapman said bounty hunting doesn't always involve "kicking down doors, barging into someone's home and other physical stuff."

Chapman cannot carry a gun because he is an ex-felon, but carries a pair of handcuffs and Mace spray. He said most fugitives surrender quietly once he tracks them down.

"Sure, it involves a lot of running around looking for these guys, but there's also a lot of investigative work in gathering tips and learning these guys' habits so we have a better chance of tracking them down," Chapman said. "You learn as much as you can about the guy so you start thinking like this person."

Chapman appeared on Court TV and Fox News Channel last month to discuss Luster's disappearance. The A&E Channel was also in the Islands earlier this month to film Chapman for a television special called "It's A Living."

Chapman said the capture of Luster would be a nice feather to add to his already crowded cap.

"Snagging this guy would be awesome," Chapman said.

He said he's now thinking of pursuing only high-profile fugitives. "I just turned 50 (last) week and I'd like to slow down a bit," he said.

Chapman said he has Luster's pager number and has a rough idea about his whereabouts.

"We had been checking out a tip that he could be on the North Shore because he is known to be an avid surfer," he said. "He's got the money to travel, that's for sure."

Luster was arrested in July 2000 after a University of California-Santa Barbara student told police he 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.

After a Jan. 9 federal warrant was ordered for Luster, California bail forfeiture laws give Chapman and anybody else 180 days to capture Luster to get 15 percent of the $1 million bail, or $150,000.

"If I catch him one day after the 180-day limit, I don't get one cent," Chapman said with a laugh.

Reach Scott Ishikawa at sishikawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 535-8110.