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Police Identify Wife of Slain Bank Robber

Investigation: Woman is sought as a witness as officials try to find $1.5 million missing from previous holdups.

March 26, 1997|BETH SHUSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping for clues leading to more than $1 million in stolen cash, Los Angeles police detectives released the name and photograph Tuesday of a woman they believe to be the wife of one of the bank robbers killed during the botched North Hollywood holdup 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 of a string of bank robberies that ended in the fatal shootout with police 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 men 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 bank robberies in the San Fernando Valley in May, which netted about $1.5 million. Authorities also believe the men attacked three armored cars, including one holdup 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.

Although 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 may also 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 "Jeanette Federico" as Phillips' girlfriend, who was eight months' pregnant at the time.

"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.

Police have interviewed another woman in Denver whom they believe to be the mother of Phillips' son. This woman was also interviewed on a nationally broadcast TV show, but said she did not know where he lived before 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, 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 in the 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.

Special correspondent Richard Winton contributed to this story.

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