An immigrant living in Michigan has been arrested for harboring five illegal immigrants whose bodies were discovered after a house fire, authorities say.
Federal officials arrested Roger Tam, the homeowner and a restaurateur in Novi, Michigan, after the house fire revealed the secreted immigrants. He was charged with “harboring undocumented immigrants for profit.” Tam’s wife also faces the same charges.
Authorities said Tam, owner of Kim’s Garden Chinese restaurant, hired the illegal aliens about six months ago to work in his eatery.
The restaurant owner supposedly paid the men in cash and, as part of the arrangement, allowed them to live in the basement of his home.
Tam and his wife, both naturalized U.S. citizens originally from China, are being held by federal officials who hope to increase the charges against them because his actions resulted in the deaths of the immigrants.
“There is an enhancement ability to the offense when it results in death and we are looking into that,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.
“The case is a sobering reminder of the dangers employers create when they harbor undocumented immigrants,” McQuade said. “In order to obtain a competitive advantage by paying lower wages and evading taxes some employers will subject undocumented workers to poor living conditions and even dangerous situations.”
Fire investigators say the fire likely started after careless smoking lit a mattress on fire. Killed were:
Pablo Alvaro Encino, 23, from Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico; Leonel Alvarado Rodriguez, 18, from Lagos De Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico; Miguel Nunez Diaz, 23, from Las Choapas, Veracruz, Mexico; Brayan Alexis Medina Contreras, 16, from Pinos, Zacatecas, Mexico; and Simeon Diaz Nunez, 18, from Santa Maria Chimalapa Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Novi officials are also looking to charge the pair on any number of charges such as building code violations, fire code violations such as disabled smoke detectors, and other charges.
Barring other charges, the couple could spend up to 10 years in prison, with a $250,000 fine.
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