SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Not even divorce could keep Brad and Andra Sachs apart.
They raised children together. They created companies from the ground up, made millions of dollars, fought tough court battles. Their divorce was rough, too.
The split was so unfriendly that the judge exclaimed it was his intent to keep them away from each other, “in light of the hostility that has arisen during the course of this separation.” Still, the couple stayed together.
But it all came to bloody end Feb. 9 inside their three-story, 8,874-square-foot home in the hills of San Juan Capistrano, where deputies found 57-year-old Bradford Sachs and 54-year-old Andra Resa Sachs shot dead.
The suspect, or suspects, fled. Nearly a week after their deaths, investigators work to untangle a mystery. Who could have made their way into the couple’s home, and why did they want them dead?
“We’re still exploring all possibilities,” said Lt Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. That includes “all their past relationships and business dealings.”
Digging through the couple’s past – in particular their business dealings – is no small task.
Throughout the years, the couple owned properties in California, Florida, Nevada, and across the border in Mexico, according to court records.
They delved into the tech industry and green energy. Records list them as presidents, members or other officers in a handful of limited liability companies.
But the bulk of the family’s revenue appears to have come from Flashcom, an internet service provider the two founded in 1998, according to testimony during a tax hearing before the California State Board of Equalization.
By March 2000, Flashcom offered Internet services to more than 30,000 customers in 82 metropolitan areas, and was poised to add another 14,000. Combined, the couple owned the biggest share of the company’s stock, according to company filings.
Two months later, the company filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission, hinting it was planning to go public. Brad Sachs was listed as CEO.
By then, though, the couple’s marriage had begun falling apart. Andra Sachs was removed from the board of directors but collected $9 million from her stocks, according to court documents in a lawsuit that followed.
The move was prompted by her management style, according to the documents, which “could no longer be tolerated because it was hindering relations with customers, strategic partners, and vendors.”
It became a bitter battle, and according to divorce filings, Andra Sachs later tried to evict the company from their location.
During much of the divorce, there seemed to be only one thing the two saw eye-to-eye: A company hired by the judge to collect property, rent, and bills from their properties found both of them unwilling to provide the documents needed to straighten out the couple’s finances.
The company tried to collect revenue from five rental properties and seven mortgages under Max Singer Properties – a business owned by the couple – but could not get bills, rent checks, or account information from them.
Then, in April 2000, the company learned that Bradford and Andra Sachs had reconciled, according to a court filing.
Despite their reunion, however, the divorce went through, and the couple never remarried.
Monte Burghardt, their real estate broker and friend, said Andra Sachs told him that was a financial decision, “for liability sake.” But he also described the couple as soul mates.
They adopted two children, and Burghardt sold them their multimillion-dollar house in the hills, a modern home that was only one of the couple’s properties.
Brad was a musician at heart and Andra Sachs, Burghardt said, was the real force in their business dealings.
“It was real simple, her business approach,” he said – she was tight with money but a, “straight shooter. She was just a brilliant business woman. She had a beautiful soul, but don’t mess with her.”
According to court records, the couple – or companies they controlled – found themselves in court 17 times since 1999, and were named as defendants in all but two.
Among the lawsuits were a handful of spats over security deposits, but records show complaints about maintenance at some properties also was common.
A company that tried to untangle their finances during the divorce reported multiple complaints against their company, Max Singer Properties, over broken ovens, rotted floors, leaky plumbing and termites.
“She was just not a pleasant person to deal with,” said Justin Myers, 30, whose mother rented from the Sachs. “They were the epitome of slum lords.”
There were other business dealings as well.
One company, R.H. Deberry Professional Corporation, complained in court documents in a 2011 case that Andra Sachs withdrew and moved money and property from the couple’s companies – Ashby Enterprises LLC, Kids Love, LLC – “for the purpose of avoiding and preventing attachment and execution by creditors.” The case was resolved outside of court and the company eventually withdrew the case.
A review of court cases in Orange County showed Andra, Brad, or both, were stakeholders in various companies, including Taste of Napa, Hi Tech Online, Power Up Inc., and Minority Electronics.
In another case, the plaintiff filed a defamation suit against Andra Sachs, claiming she emailed businesses in San Felipe, Mexico, after a building project on a property bought by the Sachs was delayed.
“They will be sorry they ever heard of me or this project,” Sachs wrote in one email.
The case was later dismissed and settled out of court.
In 2009, Andra Sachs also found herself in front of the California State Board of Equalization over taxes owed on the $9 million from stock she received from Flashcom.
She and her attorney argued she had moved to Nevada before receiving the money, making her a resident of that state.
The tax board, however, believed she had never left California. As late as 2011, it listed Andra Sachs among the state’s top delinquent taxpayers, with more than $1.1 million owed. Its most recent list of delinquent taxpayers, published this year, no longer lists either Sachs.
Burghardt, their friend and broker, said he sat down with an investigator earlier this week who wanted to know about the couple’s business dealings.
Remembering his friend, Burghardt concluded, “She was always fair. I just can’t imagine anyone hurting her.”
On Friday, family friend Laura Villa of Palm Springs allowed that the couple’s children are safe. Their adopted 8-year-old son who was shot Feb. 9 remains hospitalized.
For Burghardt, the real question is: Who went into the house, and why?
BY SALVADOR HERNANDEZ, LILY LEUNG AND MEGHANN CUNIFF / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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