Pasadena police on Thursday searched the home of Valerie Nicolescu-Matasareanu seeking to determine whether a woman who once lived there is a missing person or a part of a phantom identity possibly designed to defraud government agencies, officials said.
Authorities are trying to locate Elena Pietrzik, a 68-year-old onetime resident of the board and care facility Nicolescu-Matasareanu operated with her bank robber son. Pietrzik's Social Security checks had been deposited to a bank account held with Nicolescu-Matasareanu.
"We are looking to find out if this is real person," Pasadena Lt. Rick Law said.
Nicolescu-Matasareanu's attorney said Pietrzik does not exist.
Still, police said they discovered bank records, mail and prescription medications with the woman's name on them at the Altadena house. Police, assisted by state investigators, also searched a car, removing several stacks of papers. During the three hour-search, police discovered another possible address connected to the woman in another city, Law said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Hilda Weintraub said there is cause for concern given the charges the 54-year-old Romania native already faces.
Nicolescu-Matasareanu pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of dependent abuse, forced imprisonment and operating an unlicensed care facility after the discovery last week of a mentally disabled woman locked in a dark, foul room with no food, water or toilet. Nicolescu-Matasareanu remains in jail.
The building was searched by Los Angeles police after her son, Emil Matasareanu, was killed in a shootout with police Feb. 28 during a foiled bank robbery. Los Angeles police searched the home last week, recovering $23,000 in cash.
The Pasadena police search comes as authorities are intensifying their scrutiny of Nicolescu-Matasareanu's board and care home, which she has dubbed Valerie's Villa. Investigators are looking into the possibility that Nicolescu-Matasareanu defrauded the government out of Social Security payments, a federal crime, a source said.
State investigators are also trying to locate two other people who were listed as residents of Nicolescu-Matasareanu's board and care home.