A federal grand jury has indicted a man who is known to authorities as "the poodle bandit" and is suspected of committing six armed robberies at banks from Bakersfield to Sacramento, including a north Modesto bank earlier this month when police apprehended him.
Belko Yovanovich, 52, of Somerset in El Dorado County, was indicted on six counts of bank robbery, the U.S attorney's office announced Thursday.
Authorities nicknamed Yovanovich "the poodle bandit" because he wore a curly gray wig as a disguise when he allegedly robbed the banks.
The indictment alleges Yovanovich robbed six banks, from March 8 to May 6, in five counties, which included robberies in Bakersfield, Fresno, San Joaquin, Sacramento and Modesto.
In each of the robberies, Yovanovich wore a disguise, was armed with a handgun and ordered the teller to give him all the money, federal prosecutors said.
On May 6, Modesto police said, Yovanovich was armed with a gun and robbed Oak Valley Bank in the 4100 block of Dale Road in Modesto.
Yovanovich was seen leaving the bank wearing a gray wig, glasses and a jacket, police said. Witnesses tracked his movements and kept police posted as officers moved in to search for him.
Witnesses spotted Yovanovich slipping into a gray pickup with a camper shell. Officers could not stop the pickup before the vehicle made it to Highway 99.
Police pursued him and attempted to force the pickup off the highway near Hammett Road in Salida.
At that point, Modesto police said, Yovanovich rammed a patrol car. Neither Yovanovich nor the officer suffered serious injuries.
Yovanovich exited the highway in Ripon and spun out in a dirt field, where officers took him into custody about 20 minutes after the bank robbery.
Modesto police said officers recovered evidence from the robbery in the pickup.
Yovanovich was in custody Thursday, and he is scheduled to appear for arraignment today. Prosecutors said he faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years for each count.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.