DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The owners of a restaurant in Novi have pleaded guilty to illegally harboring five immigrants who died in a basement fire at their home.
Roger Tam, 56, and wife Ada Mei Lei, 49, admitted Wednesday that they knew a teenager and four young men from Mexico were in the U.S. illegally. The five worked at Kim’s Garden restaurant and lived in a home in Novi owned by the couple.
The victims died a year ago in a fire that was likely caused by smoking.
“Today the principal defendants were convicted for using illegal labor to operate restaurants in metro Detroit,” said Steve Francis, acting special agent in charge of HSI Detroit, in a media release. “These guilty pleas should stand as a warning to employers who knowingly hire and employ illegal aliens that they will be held accountable for their actions.”
Click here to read the criminal complaint (.pdf format)
Tam and Lei pleaded guilty without making a deal with prosecutors. Defense lawyers say the government wanted the couple to acknowledge that they’re responsible for the deaths. They declined.
It means a judge must settle the critical issue which is significant because it could lead to longer prison sentences.
They each face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“These defendants are accepting responsibility for harboring undocumented workers and conspiracy, but we disagree about the appropriate sentencing guidelines that apply,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade. “At the sentencing hearing, the United States will seek a sentencing enhancement for creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to reflect the seriousness of the offense.”
Sentencing has been set for June 13.
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