By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Cator says her daughter concluded her confession with a chilling summary: "Mom, you have no idea how much trouble I'm in."
The next morning, Cator drove to the headquarters of the Irvine Police Department and asked to speak with Mike Hallinan.
Cator met with Hallinan at a Black Angus restaurant. That's where they made the deal Cator regrets to this day.
It turned out Hallinan already knew Andrea because he had searched Sammy's house while Andrea was there. Cator says she agreed "to have Andrea tell him everything she knew about Sammy and Lisa Piho. They wouldn't give Andrea her license back but would make the two tickets disappear, and Sammy and Lisa would go to prison."
Cator left the restaurant and picked up her daughter at an assisted living home, where Nelson worked as a receptionist.
"I told her, 'We're going to the Irvine PD, and you're going to talk to Hallinan and tell him everything you know.'" Nelson looked terrified.
Cator says she'll never forget what her daughter said next: "You have just signed my death certificate, Mom."
Instead of meeting at Irvine police headquarters, Catorsays she brought her daughter to meet Hallinan at a nearby McDonald's; Hallinan insisted on speaking privately ?with Nelson.
During that meeting, Cator says, Andrea told Hallinan everything she knew about Johar, Piho and Mr. J's.
"They talked for over an hour," Cator recalls.
Whatever transpired apparently reassured Andrea.
"I was sitting out in my car because I smoke," Cator says. "She came out and was happy. She knew she did the right thing."
Hallinan told Cator that Andrea would have to accompany them the following night to point out the location of several drug labs used for making GHB, the date-rape drug.
"I said, 'Okay,'" Cator recalls. "I picked her up from work the next night, and they came and picked her up. I assumed I was going with them, but they said, 'Linda, it's not safe for you.'" Cator says she argued but finally relented. "I figured the less I knew, the better."
The police collected Andrea at 6:30 p.m. and brought her home four hours later.
"She pointed out GHB labs and drug dealers," Cator says. "She wouldn't tell me where or who, but just said that's what she did. She went to bed happy."
The next day Hallinan called Cator and said Andrea would have to go to Tustin police and identify a few police officers. "I said, 'No way; she is not pointing out officers.'"
Hallinan persuaded Cator to change her mind. "He said, 'Linda, we don't like dirty cops.' He talked me into it."
The next morning, according to Cator, Hallinan brought Andrea to meet with Tustin police sergeant Joe Stickles. In that meeting, Cator says, Andrea identified six cops who had ties to Sammy Johar.
"Andrea was feeling good about it," Cator says. "I was proud. I wanted Sammy to go to jail. The next night, Joe Stickles took my daughter to the Buena Park Police Department, because there were officers there she could identify."
Hallinan declined an interview request. But those officers likely included Detective Parsons and Officer Collins, the two cops who, just a few months earlier, had flown to Vegas with Lisa Piho. Cator says Stickles assured Andrea that nobody would discover she had informed on Johar or Piho. They planned to arrest the pair, and any cops who lost their jobs would likely assume that Piho and Johar had squealed on their own.
"They said they didn't need Andrea anymore," Cator says. "They had Piho and Sammy [Johar] squealing like pigs. I was happy because Sammy was in jail."
Despite her fears that she had put her daughterin danger by forcing Andrea to work as an informant, everything seemed to have worked out fine. Johar was behind bars, and Andrea had moved on with her life. She bought herself a new car, a silver Ford Focus, with money from her job as a receptionist.
Still, Cator went online to the Orange County Sheriff's Department's website to make sure Johar was still behind bars awaiting trial on drug charges.
"One day, I saw he was out on bail," she says. "I called Stickles, and he said it was no big deal, [Johar] was still going to jail."
But Johar didn't go to jail. Instead, he left ?the country.
"One day, Johar called Andrea from the Bahamas," Cator recalls. "He sent her e-mails begging her to come with him. She wouldn't. She didn't want to be with Sammy anymore."
But if Andrea was moving on with her life, there were still signs of trouble. She continued to go out late with her friends. In October 2002, Cator says, her daughter met a rich middle-aged man named Homayan Bakhtar at a Mexican restaurant in Newport Beach. The two exchanged telephone numbers.
While Johar was older than Andrea, he was still in his 20s; at 45, Bakhtar was more than twice her age. Like Johar, though, Bakhtar was rich and he liked to party. He lived in an upscale Newport Beach neighborhood, in a big mansion with an indoor pool. He owned three auto-repair shops and would later say he was a frequent visitor to Mr. J's.