Mask-Maker Rusty Slusser's Hollywood-Style Creations Fooled Cops, Airport Security

Rusty Slusser sought realism. "Becoming a tool for criminals ... unintended. "

December 9, 2010, 7:52 PM

Dec. 10, 2010 — -- A Cincinnati bank robber and a Chinese dissident who snuck onto a Canada-bound flight have one thing in common: They both used Hollywood-style, realistic-looking face masks to hide their identities and evade law enforcement.

Both men purchased their disguises from SPFX Masks, a California company with a history of producing high-quality work for sci-fi movies, Halloween costumes and Hollywood celebrities looking to conceal their own identities in public.

Owner Rusty Slusser never imagined his work would be used by criminals to break the law.

"My reaction was very embarrassed and shocked," Slusser told ABC News. "We made these masks for people to have fun with."

Slusser first learned about his masks being used for crime when he was called earlier this year by police in Cincinnati investigating a string of bank robberies.

Police had an African-American suspect in custody that had been picked out of a photo line-up by victims. The suspect even was identified by his own mother, who thought she recognized the man from a bank surveillance photo shown on TV.

"I saw the surveillance pictures and I knew the mask," Slusser said, recognizing his work.

The man in custody just happened to bear a striking similarity to a mask Slusser's company has dubbed, "The Player."

The real culprit behind the robberies was 30-year-old Conrad Zdzierak, a white man. Zdzierak pleaded guilty earlier this month to six robberies.

"I've represented people who've robbed banks before," Zdzierak's attorney, Christopher McDowell, told ABC News. "I've represented people who've worn masks before. But I've never represented someone who wore a mask that was this nice, so to speak."

Slusser's detailed mask work also was on display this October in Hong Kong when a Chinese dissident in his early 20's made it onboard a flight to Canada disguised as an elderly white man.

"Airport security is there for a reason, and it just shocked me that somebody could get through airport security," Slusser told ABC News. "I never would have guessed that."

Mask-Maker Rusty Slusser: Paint Job 'Makes the Mask Look Like Real Skin'

The staff at SPFX crafts their life-like, silicone disguises in a Van Nuys, Calif., workshop.

"With our masks, we're trying raise the bar once again," Slusser said. "We want to make things where they look absolutely real. It's been a challenge to be able to do that, and it makes the customer happy."

The company's designers use a special silicone "designed to act like skin and look just like it, too."

"Some of our paint jobs are multi-layer and we try to use every color we can," Slusser said. "It makes the mask look like real skin.

"I wanted to bring something to the public that they couldn't get anywhere -- a Hollywood effect," he added. "Becoming a tool for criminals was an unintended consequence. "

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