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‘What made him leave?’: Police find missing Fargo restaurateur after 3 months

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Rodolfo Romo laughs while posing for a portrait with a "smothered burrito" made at his restaurant, Romo's Tacos, on Broadway in Fargo, N.D., in the lowest level of the Black Building, on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Romo's Tacos has another location just east of Interstate 29 on 13th Avenue South. Nick Wagner / The Forum 2 / 2

FARGO – Three months after seemingly vanishing without a trace, prompting worried family and friends to ask for help, a Fargo restaurateur has been found alive.

It’s a development that raises new questions about where he is now and why he left.

The Fargo Police Department announced on Facebook Thursday, Sept. 7, that the discovery came about after a detective followed up on a lead connected to Rodolfo Romo Garcia, 43, who did business locally as Rodolfo Romo.

He was reported missing by his family June 2 after he didn’t show up at work for two days and didn’t answer his phone, which was turned off.

Fargo police said another law enforcement agency was able to contact Garcia in person after the Fargo detective followed up on the lead.

“They were able (to) verify his identify by his North Dakota Driver’s License,” the post said. “That law enforcement agency indicated Mr. Garcia stated he was fine and did not want his current location known to anyone.”

The department said the missing person report will be closed, and the case is no longer considered a criminal matter.

Garcia’s three Romo’s Tacos restaurants in Fargo closed after he disappeared, and concerned friends pressured investigators to find him throughout the summer. Many of those leading search efforts said it was out of character for Garcia to disappear like this.

Kay Cameron, a friend who looked into leads and updated authorities on possible clues, set up a Find Romo Facebook page to raise awareness. Several relatives came to town in mid-June from Omaha and Sioux Falls to talk with detectives and tell reporters they were worried about their family member who, according to them, suffered from diabetes and a hernia.

Cameron said Thursday she just wanted to know he was safe. She said she hasn’t communicated with him since late May when he was last seen at his restaurants.

While the news is a relief, she said she hopes Garcia can get his life “back on track” now that he’s been found.

“The truth is, I would still like to know what made him think he should leave?” she said. “What made him leave?”

New information about the case was scarce this summer, though court documents related to the filing of a search warrant seeking Garcia’s Verizon Wireless phone records shed some light on an investigation into reports of owed money and threats.

Those documents said Garcia’s accountant told police he was a “somewhat difficult” client because he didn’t submit payroll paperwork in a timely manner and didn’t document deposits in his business account.

The accountant, Cindy Slaughter, provided authorities with paperwork showing Garcia got a $25,000 loan from a finance company.

Ahsan Khalid, who now operates Darbar Palace, 402 Broadway, at the site of Garcia’s short-lived business Magnolia’s Restaurant, told authorities that he gave Garcia $25,000 over the course of two months to be business partners in the new eatery.

He also said several former employees of Garcia’s came to the restaurant to tell him their paychecks were returned with nonsufficient funds. One man claimed Garcia owed him $60,000 to $80,000, Khalid said, and he was threatened by other men who said Garcia also owed them money.