A Novi restaurant owner convicted for harboring five undocumented immigrants who were killed in a basement fire in his home will spend nine months in prison, the Associated Press reports.
Roger Tam, who owned Chinese restaurant Kim’s Garden and his wife Ada Lei previously pleaded no contest for harboring the men, including two teens, all from Mexico in the basement of their home while they were employed at the business.
Federal prosectors argued for a seven-year sentence for Tam, saying the couple had created a dangerous living situation for the men and teens by allowing them to live in the basement. They told U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani that the living space lacked sufficient smoke detectors and had just one stairway to exit to the first floor.
Battani disagreed, saying had it not been for the fire, the living quarters would have been “excellent,” the AP reports, a detail that led to the shorter sentence.
Lei was sentenced to a year of supervised release.
The men and teens died in 2016 in a basement fire that was later linked to smoking. Three of the five had been drinking heavily, according to an autopsy. Examiners determined the victims — Miguel Nunez Diaz, Leonel Alvarado Rodriguez, Simeon Diaz Nunez, Pablo Alvaro Encino, and Brayan Alexis Medina Contreras — died from soot and smoke inhalation after failing to escape from the basement.
The restaurant closed a year after the incident.
• Novi Restaurant Owner, Wife Sentenced in Case Tied to 5 Deaths in House Fire [AP via Crain’s]
• Novi Chinese Restaurant Owners Charged After Five Undocumented Workers Killed in House Fire [ED]
• All CrimeWire Coverage [ED]