Jose Luis Razo, who rose from a tough immigrant neighborhood in La Habra to attend Harvard University and was later convicted in a string of armed robberies, is in jail again for being in the country illegally.
Razo, 35, was arrested without incident Thursday after a veteran La Habra police sergeant recognized him in a grocery store.
"As much as I'd like to say that it was due to outstanding police work, the fact of the matter is one of our sergeants ... just ran into him," said La Habra Police Chief Dennis Kies.
The former Ivy League student was deported to his native Mexico in 1999 and barred from the United States because of his felony conviction, police said.
Razo made headlines nationally in 1987 when he was arrested for robbing 10 Orange County businesses. A jury convicted him two years later of six of the crimes and sentenced him to more than 10 years in prison.
The case shocked the largely Latino community where Razo was reared. After Razo's family moved to the United States, Razo became an altar boy, a star athlete and scholar at Servite High School in Anaheim and a leader in the local Boys Club.
Offered many scholarships, Razo enrolled at Harvard in 1985. There, he earned above-average grades and played linebacker on the football team.
He wrote a college paper expressing concern for Latinos in his hometown who turned to crime and ended up in prison.
Razo confessed to donning a ski mask and knocking off fast-food outlets and grocery stores while in Orange County on school breaks between December 1985 and June 1987.
In interviews with The Times, Razo said he didn't fit in at Harvard and turned to crime for the money. His take: about $25,000.
"I'm a homeboy now," Razo said after his arrest. "At Harvard, I didn't fit.... I was confused."
After serving seven years, he was arrested again in 1997 in a domestic-violence case involving a girlfriend and was given probation.
He later was deported.
Razo is being held in the Orange County Jail on a charge of violating his probation and a no-bail Immigration and Naturalization Service warrant.