DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A Novi restaurant owner who lost five workers in a fire at his home has been released on bond while charged with illegally harboring immigrants.
A federal judge on Wednesday released Roger Tam after he spent nearly a week in custody.
A teenager and four young men from Mexico died on Jan. 31 during a fire in the basement of his house on Mystic Forest Dr., near 9 Mile in Novi.
Authorities confirmed that all five of the victims were in the U.S. illegally.
Autopsies found all five victims died from smoke and soot inhalation, and one of them suffered burns. The Oakland County Medical Examiner ruled the deaths “accidental.”
The basement had stairs to the first floor, police said, but the basement windows were made of glass block, which would prevent any escape in an emergency.
Police said the fire may have been started by a cigarette.
Authorities believe the victims who died worked 16-hour days, six days a week at Kim’s Garden, a Chinese restaurant in Novi Town Square on Novi Rd.
The criminal complaint alleges the Mexican nationals — ranging in age from 16 to 23 — were provided housing, paid in cash and were transported to and from the restaurant as a condition of their employment.
Click here to read the criminal complaint (.pdf format)
Tam’s wife, Ada Lei, is also charged in the case. Authorities said last Friday that Lei was hospitalized and her surrender was being negotiated.
If found guilty, Tam and Lei each face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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