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Fugitive restaurant owner arrested 2 years after he skipped sentencing

He had been convicted of harboring illegal aliens as a result of an ICE investigation

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A convicted restaurant owner who absconded before he could be sentenced two years ago for harboring illegal aliens was arrested in Missouri Tuesday. U.S. Attorney Matt M. Dummermuth, Northern District of Iowa, announced the arrest.

Julio Zalapa-Urbina, 33, a former resident of St. Joseph, Mo., was part owner of Julio's Restaurant and Cantina in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and owner of two other Julio's Restaurants in St. Joseph and Maryville, Mo. He pleaded guilty in June 2006 to harboring illegal aliens for profit and in February 2007 was sentenced in absentia to almost two years in federal prison after failing to appear for his sentencing hearing.

Zalapa-Urbina was arrested Tuesday in St. Joseph, Mo., by local authorities and is currently in the Buchanan County, Missouri, jail. An appearance date in federal court in the Northern District of Iowa has yet to be set.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents executed a federal search warrant at Zalapa-Urbina's Cedar Falls restaurant April 27, 2006. During the search, ICE agents arrested 11 illegal aliens working at the restaurant. ICE agents also seized more than $17,000 in cash from the restaurant and later seized another $17,000 from a business bank account.

ICE agents returned to the Cedar Falls restaurant in May 2006 and arrested another illegal alien Zalapa-Urbina had brought to Cedar Falls to work after the previous arrests. That illegal alien had previously been arrested by ICE agents in St. Joseph, Mo., while working at the Julio's restaurant there.

ICE agents executed another federal search warrant in May 2006 at Julio's Restaurant in St. Joseph. Among 12 employees working at the St. Joseph restaurant at the time, nine were illegal aliens. Zalapa-Urbina was arrested shortly after the execution of the search warrant.

Zalapa-Urbina was originally scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 11, 2007, but failed to appear for his hearing. Immigration agents received a tip that Zalapa-Urbina, a U.S. permanent resident originally from Mexico, fled to Mexico Christmas Eve 2006. A warrant was issued for Zalapa-Urbina's arrest and his sentencing was continued until Feb. 20, 2007, when Zalapa-Urbina again failed to appear.

Finding that Zalapa-Urbina had voluntarily failed to appear for sentencing, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade ruled that he waived his right to be present and sentenced him to 21 months in prison. Judge Reade lengthened his sentence because of his failure to appear. She also ordered Zalapa-Urbina to forfeit more than $34,000 in cash and other funds seized from the Cedar Falls restaurant and bank account.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan, and was investigated by ICE, with assistance from the Cedar Falls Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service.