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Big house awaits Poodle Bandit
Yovanovich Belko
Belko Yovanovich

The man who earned the moniker of the “Poodle Bandit” because of the curly gray wig he donned during his bank heists, is headed to prison.

Belko Yovanovich, 53, of Somerset was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday to 11 years and three months in prison for a string of bank robberies carried out between March 10 and May 6, 2010.

Yovanovich was convicted of seven bank robberies in five counties, including a Rabobank in Turlock on April 29, 2010.

Yovanovich’s series of robberies came to an end after his heist of the Oak Valley Bank in Modesto on May 6, 2010.

A Modesto police officer responded to the report of the Oak Valley Bank robbery and saw Yovanovich driving a silver pickup truck matching the description given by witnesses of the getaway vehicle. When officers attempted to pull Yovanovich over, he led the officers on a pursuit, driving recklessly and intentionally ramming a patrol car. The chase ended when another officer rammed Yovanovich’s car, causing him to lose control. Inside the vehicle, officers located bait money from the Oak Valley Bank that a teller put in the bag, as well as a loaded revolver.

In addition to the prison sentence, Yovanovich was ordered to pay $49,888 in restitution to the banks.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.