Hoping for clues leading to more than $1 million in stolen cash, Los Angeles police detectives Tuesday released the name and photograph of a woman they believe to be the widow of one of the bank robbers killed during the botched North Hollywood heist last month.
Authorities are asking for help finding Jeanette Theresa Federico, who was believed to have been married to Larry Eugene Phillips Jr., the alleged mastermind behind a string of bank robberies that ended in the fatal shootout with police on Feb. 28.
Phillips, along with his partner, Emil Matasareanu, died after fleeing the North Hollywood Bank of America branch, where they had herded employees and customers into the vault at gunpoint. When the pair left the bank, they were confronted by police, triggering a running gun battle that injured 11 officers and six passersby.
The FBI, along with the Los Angeles Police Department, have linked the men to two other bank robberies in the San Fernando Valley. Those robberies, both last May, netted about $1.5 million. Authorities say they also believe the men carried out three armored car attacks, including one in which a guard was killed.
LAPD officials have so far been unable to find the cash from the previous robberies. They say they consider Federico a witness, not a suspect, in the investigation. She may have spoken with Matasareanu's wife, Christina, days after a previous robbery, a law enforcement source said.
While police say they do not have a marriage license linking Phillips and Federico, authorities believe they were married in a civil ceremony. Federico is described as either 27 or 28 years old, 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing about 130 pounds.
She may have two children, ages 3 and 6. She also may have lived in the San Gabriel Valley, Colorado, New Mexico or Arizona, authorities said.
In a probation report, written after Phillips and Matasareanu were arrested in Glendale four years ago, authorities identified a "Jeanette Frederico" as Phillips' girlfriend, then 8 months' pregnant.
"We're hoping she will come forward," said LAPD Det. Tom Gattegno, who is conducting the investigation. "We've exhausted all means on our end."
Authorities say Phillips lived like a fugitive--using false identities, paying cash for most purchases and refusing to supply even his own family members with a reliable home address.
"This guy lived the totally paranoid lifestyle," one law enforcement source said.
Police have interviewed another woman, in Denver, who they believe to be the mother of Phillips' son. That woman was also interviewed on a nationally broadcast TV show but said she did not know where Phillips lived prior to the North Hollywood robbery.
Authorities are asking anyone with information to call (213) 485-0780 during the day or (213) 485-2504 at night.
Meanwhile, the mother of the other slain robber, Valerie Nicolescu-Matasareanu, who once operated a board and care facility with her son in their Altadena home, appeared in court Tuesday. She is charged with felony abuse charges for the alleged imprisonment of a 44-year-old mentally disabled woman.
Nicolescu-Matasareanu, now free on $50,000 bail, turned in her Italian passport and was given until April 1 to turn over her U.S. passport. She told a Pasadena judge she has been unable to find her possessions because a series of police searches of her home have made it difficult to find anything.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Terry Smerling delayed the 54-year-old Romanian native's preliminary hearing until April 15. Nicolescu-Matasareanu has pleaded not guilty to charges of dependent abuse, false imprisonment and operating an unlicensed board and care facility.
She was arrested March 11, a week after the mentally disabled woman was found locked in a filthy room at a Pasadena property owned by Nicolescu-Matasareanu.
Pasadena police are also continuing to search for an Elena Pietrzik, a 68-year-old woman who may have lived with Nicolescu-Matasareanu.
Social Security checks for Pietrzik were going to a joint account held with Nicolescu-Matasareanu, authorities said. A similar arrangement existed with the mentally disabled woman found on the Pasadena property, prosecutors said.
A Pasadena police search of Nicolescu-Matasareanu's Altadena home last week turned up a California identification card for Pietrzik and prescription medications.
An attorney for Nicolescu-Matasareanu has denied Pietrzik the woman exists.
Times special correspondent Richard Winton contributed to this story.