DETROIT — The Latest on the sentencing of a Detroit-area couple who were blamed by prosecutors for the deaths of five immigrants in a house fire (all times local):
A Detroit-area man has been sentenced to nine months in prison for employing five Mexican immigrants who died in a house fire.
Federal prosecutors wanted seven years in prison for Roger Tam, who owned a restaurant. But Judge Marianne Battani (Ba-TAN’-ee) said she wouldn’t hold Tam and his wife responsible for the deaths at their suburban Detroit home.
A teen and four men from Mexico were in the U.S. illegally. They died in 2016 when they failed to escape a basement fire that was linked to careless smoking. Autopsies showed three had been drinking heavily.
Tam told the judge Thursday that he was “deeply heartbroken” over the deaths. The victims lived in Tam’s house and were 16 years old to 23 years old.
Tam’s wife, Ada Mei Lei, wasn’t given a prison sentence.
Lawyers for a Michigan couple who owned a home where five immigrants died say the fire was a tragic accident that doesn’t justify years in prison.
Roger Tam and his wife, Ada Mei Lei, are returning to federal court Thursday.
A teenager and four men from Mexico were in the U.S. illegally and working at a Detroit-area restaurant that was owned by the couple. The five died in 2016 while living in the basement of Tam’s Novi home.
Tam and Lei pleaded guilty to harboring immigrants. The government wants a seven-year prison sentence, saying the couple created a high risk of death.
Defense lawyers deny it. They say the basement was finished with two bedrooms, a kitchen and living area. The fire has been linked to careless smoking.