After their first known successful foray into 'takover' robberies 29 days earlier, and with both men practically rolling in money, the duo made what seems to be a strange decision. They went to work again.
The clock had only ticked a few minutes past ten in the morning of Friday May 31st when Phillips and Matasareanu again stormed a Valley bank, loosing off gunshots and demanding money.
They had made a mistake.
It was only a small one but it affected their perception of just how much cash the bank was holding. Although their haul was more than considerable at first glance, it was to be far less than they were expecting.
When staking out the bank and noting what the Brinks guards took in and removed from the premises they had mistaken a collection on Wednesday 29th May for a delivery.
They thought they were walking into $2 million of easy money.
The reconstruction that follows has been made from the relevant FBI file, witness statements and several cross referenced media sources.

They hit the south doors at running speed, and as the doors crashed open, several people alerted by the noise all turned to look.

South facade of BoA Winnetka

A Bank of America auditor, behind the teller counter and using a copier machine would end up with a grandstand view of what was to happen next.
A customer seated just inside the doors at a business banking desk, turned and saw the bulky men in black take their last few steps to enter the bank.
Seeing what was about to go down she let out a cry 'OH NO!'
Phillips and Matasareanu were now inside the bank doors, weapons held high, it had all happened in the blink of an eye.


As the screamed instructions filled the bank, people started dropping to the floor, including all the tellers behind the counter. The auditor along with a teller at another location further along the line, hit the floor too and began frantically pressing the hold-up alarm buttons. Phillips and Matasareanu now realistically had 120 seconds before police were alerted and en route.
Once again they struck lucky, police were thin on the ground.
Matasareanu moved to the north end of the teller line and aimed his rifle at the bullet resistant door, eased back on the trigger and the sound of full auto gunfire ripped through the bank. Fourteen rounds hit the door around the lock mechanism.
Phillips moved east within the bank, raising his rifle into a firing position and screaming at staff and customers to 'GET DOWN'.

Gunfire again tore at the air and another twelve rounds finished the job, the teller door was breached.
Matasareanu then turned and fired again at the internal teller door, the rounds ripping through the polycarbonate sheeting with fragmented rounds striking and injuring two tellers, both in the left foot/ankle area.

A female BoA employee cowering on the floor gingerly got to her feet and called for the manager to bring her keys; when the manager identified herself Matasareanu ordered her to 'get the other key'.
The manager hurried down the teller line and urged the other keyholder to join her.
Matasareanu ordered both women to the vault.
Phillips remained on station systematically checking both entrance doors, noticing the bottleneck of movement he yelled 'HURRY UP!'

Phillips looks out through the bank's south entrance doors

Back at the vault's day gate the terrified manager tried to get the door open; Matasareanu prompted her by jamming the muzzle of his rifle into the right side of her ribs.
The gate swung open and the trio entered the vault. Matasareanu dragging with him the black and blue case that he demanded be filled with money.

Money bag carried into the bank by Phillips
'I KNOW YOU HAVE MORE THAN $2 MILLION' he barked at the scared women.
The manager, her hands trembling so badly that she had trouble unlocking the reserve teller boxes, finally snapped the lock open and bundles of notes spilled into the waiting bag.
Matasareanu was unimpressed.
The second reserve teller box was opened, more bundles.
A third teller box was opened and emptied, to be followed in turn by threats of execution from the gunman.
His eyes not visible behind the dark sunglasses and with no facial expression to be read behind the ski mask he must have cut an extremely intimidating figure with the rifle in his hand, the auditor though had seen the merest glimpse of skin between the cuff of his glove and the sleeve of his jacket.
White skin.
If they managed to escape alive she would have a clue for the police, a small clue but a clue nonetheless.

Back in the vault the bag was not filling up fast enough for Matasareanu.
A larger cabinet, a Berger, was opened and once more bundles of crisp notes tumbled into the waiting bag.
In that single comment, the flawed planning of this robbery was exposed.
There was no shipment, the gunmen's reconnaissance had been faulty. The Brinks shipment which they had seen as a delivery had in fact been a collection, the money they were after had been taken away two days previously.
There was nowhere near the amount of money they expected left in the bank.
The manger spoke up.
'This is it'.
Matasareanu then fired a single round within the confines of the vault, those outside in the lobby must have believed that he had made good on his threats of execution.
Matasareanu ushered the women out of the vault and to a reserve teller area, the manager headed for the C.O.W (Cash On Wheels, a wheeled lockbox used to transport reserve cash to the tellers).
Still shaking so badly as to nearly drop her keys, she attempted to unlock the C.O.W.
Phillips wanted the process speeding up.
The last of the money was crammed into the bag.
The total take was to be calculated at $794,200, an incredible haul for a bank robbery, but with a sting in the tail.
From every location emptied of cash, 'bait bills' had been included in the haul, a system of marked bills that if stolen can be traced back to where they were spent and hopefully to who had spent them. (To this day, it remains unknown if any of those bills were ever traced by the FBI or Treasury Department, one would assume not.)

In the lobby, Phillips maintained his vigil, shuttling between the two entrance doors, one north and one south, checking for police. But he was having problems with his mask.

It was riding up and obscuring his vision, he kept tugging it down, it was a distraction.
At one point, he lifted it as far as to expose the lower half of his face, an act that was spotted by another witness.
Phillips checked his watch.
And indeed they did. If they wanted to escape, they were well into deep water now, long past the 120 second limit, they had been in the bank closer to 7 minutes.
It was only pure fate that the LAPD hadn't arrived yet, but the silent alarm had been passed to them and they were closing in on the bank.

Matasareanu ordered everyone behind the teller line into the vault.
It was time to escape.
Matasareanu dragged the heavy case, a sound recalled by many of the witnesses, by the handles and exited the south teller door, reunited with Phillips in the lobby area they both headed for the south entrance door and to their waiting car in the parking lot.
Phillips reached the door first, pushed it open and with weapon held high he surveyed his surroundings, looking for police. For now there was none.
There were several people who were well aware that a robbery was in progress inside the bank, some sat in their cars and watched the gunmen's exit, some hid outside their vehicles.
One particular gentleman was to go a step further, he attempted to chase down the bandits.

Emil drags the money bag

Phillips still holding the door open, waited for Matasareanu to drag the bag out into the daylight.
He looked back over his shoulder into the bank just once and then made for the Chevy sitting in the lot.
Phillips took station by the cars passenger door, whilst Matasareanu opened the trunk and heaved the bag inside.
Matasareanu then climbed into the driver's seat, removing his dark jacket as he did so, his body armour would later be misinterpreted for a tan coloured jacket.

One customer in the bank had dared to venture as far as the south door, and watched as the duo entered their vehicle, they also got a partial licence plate.
Another peered into the vault and told the staff the robbers had left.
Phillips climbed into the passenger seat and both still masked and armed they took off out of the parking lot at a high rate of knots, so fast in fact that the white Chevrolet Celebrity bottomed out as it swung wildly out of the lot and southbound on Winnetka Avenue.
The pair had a tail.
A male civilian in a grey Ford F150 pick up truck had overheard a female customer in the parking lot being warned that there was a robbery in progress and when Phillips and Matasareanu exited the bank and gunned the Chevy out of the lot, he gave chase.

As the white Chevy sped south along Winnetka Avenue, its horn honking furiously at vehicles to move out of the way, the truck followed at a discrete distance.
This was not a suave calculated escape of Hollywood fame, more of an adrenaline fuelled unscripted headlong dash into the anonymity of the housing suburbs, and in itself it showed a glimpse of the lack of professionalism that the gunmen showed toward their 'trade'.
A complex ideology was at work here, they had sacrificed 'escape time' for extra time in the vault to be able to grab more money, offsetting this with firepower and armour far superior to that of any primary responding police units.
This points to the fact that they accepted a firefight to be not only an inevitable risk, but also an event with a high likelihood off occurring, one which they had planned for; but what it also shows is that any vehicular escape would have to be conducted at high speed and with reckless abandon, therefore drawing many more potential witnesses to their getaway. This would be countered by using a bland coloured vehicle, with all identifying manufacturers badges removed and a stolen licence plate affixed.
As bank robberies go, and although the nature of the crime is inherently a dangerous one, you would have to ask just how logical their tactics were. Yes they were successful, twice, but this can only be attributed to the fact that LAPD units were thin on the ground, a factor that the pair could have had no prediction for.
Their luck, as dumb as it was, surely could not hold out.

Looking out towards Winnetka Ave. from BoA parking lot (Circa 2011)

Sidewalk curb ramp where Chevy bottomed out

Looking south on Winnetka Ave.

The pickup truck stuck with them, mostly maintaining a distance, as the Chevy blew through stop signs and continued on its wild joyride.
At the first intersection south of the bank, Matasareanu swung the Chevy hard right and onto Lanark Street, the impromptu pursuit lasted approximately seven minutes on a mazy pattern through the streets of Winnetka.

Finally, after several minutes of random turns through the neighbourhood, the pair of vehicles ended up at the intersection pictured above, Limerick Avenue and Arminta Street, they were now only yards away from Sunnybrea Elementary school. A firefight here could have been catastrophic, but strangely although they knew they were being followed no shots had been fired, no weapon brandished.
As the Chevy bore down on the intersection, the grey pick up inadvertently drew within two car lengths, close enough for the driver to see that Phillips and Matasareanu were still masked and were carrying their weapons high enough so as to be seen through the car's windows.
The Chevy blew the stop sign, turning right onto Arminta, the truck driver backed off, eventually finding a police car at Desoto & Saticoy and stopping to tell of his pursuit.
Phillips and Matasareanu were last seen heading south on McNulty Avenue.
After that, they disappeared, three quarters of a million dollars richer, yet the nature of their crime had already sown the seeds of their destruction.
It was just a matter of time.


This robbery is strange, not so much in it's execution but for 'the little things'.
Matasareanu no longer touched the money, he retained his focus on his captive subjects. He had also realised that he no longer needed all the tellers who held keys to the vault, he only needed the day gate unlocking and less people in the vault meant less chances of an unscripted event happening.
Phillips remained on station in the lobby. This gave Matasareanu significantly more protection that he had been afforded in Van Nuys.
Yet despite these wrinkles that they had ironed out of their procedure, some small slip ups remained.
Phillips halfway removing his mask was a big one. For a duo that went so far as to conceal any part of their identities, showing any sort of skin has to be seen as a major faux pas from them.
The time spent inside the bank had grown from 'way too long' to 'excessive', eight minutes was really pushing the boundaries of expecting to escape unscathed considering the nearest police station (Topanga) was situated less than 1.7 miles away.
Why did Matasareanu move the tellers into the vault? It is an illogical action, what purpose did it serve? They had to have known that from the moment that they were spotted coming through the doors of the bank that the silent alarms had been activated. They had burned an additional two minutes on top of the time they spent in the Van Nuys job, so was this Matasareanu's way of shielding BoA employees from any stray rounds in a firefight that may erupt the moment they walked out of the bank? Possibly, but then what of the customers? The very act of getting the obviously frightened tellers to their feet and moving them to the vault would have burned extra time, potentially a minute or two leaving the possibility that this was only ever intended to be a six or seven minute job, which then brings us full circle back to the original question...why place the tellers in the vault if they were within an acceptable working timeline? Bizarre.
The next question we have racked our brains over and can come up with no logical answer for is: 'Why did they allow themselves to be followed?'
All it would have taken would to have been to brandish one of the rifles across the back seat and out of the the rear window or out of one of the side windows and I would be confident in saying that the truck driver would have broken off his pursuit pretty quickly. Yet this never happened and the pair allowed quite an obvious tail to stick with them for several minutes, which in a vehicle pursuit is a long time. After all the planning, after a relatively decent execution of said plans they allowed this oddity to remain.