Novi man who lost employees in house fire, released on bond

A Novi businessman was in federal court on Wednesday in connection with a fire that killed five illegal immigrants who were living his basement.

The judge granted Roger Tam bond on Wednesday, but it came with a number of conditions: $10,000 unsecured, his passport has been revoked, and he will have to pay for electronic monitoring.

Those stipulations were made after his court appearance on Wednesday. The prosecution argued that Tam, a China native, is a flight risk while adding that more charges are expected, considering that Tam is accused of harboring illegal immigrants.

A judge granted Roger Tam bond with a number of conditions including $10,000 unsecured. He cannot get his passport back and there will be some sort of electronic monitoring which tam will have to pay for.

The prosecutor in court argued  that Tam is a flight risk being a native of China, also given the charges of harboring illegal immigrants. And the likelihood that the US attorney will add more serious charges at some point.

"He hasn't been to China in 20 years," said attorney Ray Cassar. "His family is here, his business is here since 1989. This man is not going anywhere."

Five young men who came to this country illegally died back on Jan. 31 in a house fire on Mystic Forrest Drive in Novi.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and other investigators have stated that Tam did not tell fire crews people were inside the house.

Tam's attorney says that is not true.

"He did, he absolutely told them," Cassar said. "His Indication was they came out, we cannot find anyone, he said yes, there are people in the home. There are people in the home."

Investigators say the fire appears to have been accidental and the fire started on one of the beds in the basement,  where all of the victims lived.

"It was a Novi home, this wasn't some slumlord," Cassar said. "It was a Novi home. But five is still excessive, beds, futons, personal items, all over the place. Two bedrooms. A bathroom, a kitchen and they were allowed to go through the house."

All of the victims, between the ages of 16 and 23 also worked at Kim's Garden, a restaurant owned by Tam.

Ray Cassar argued that although the young men were not in the country us citizenship, they were not smuggled or held against their will.

Cassar claims that Tam treated the young men who died like family.

"He made them breakfast, they ate together, this was like a family situation," Cassar said. "Now I know people don't want to believe that, well they're living in the basement. That was an option for them to have a place to stay."

Investigators say there were a number of fire code violations inside the home including disabled smoke detectors in the basement.

"There were smoke alarms in that house, they made it seem all of these smoke alarms were not working," Cassar said. "That's not true."

Roger Tam will be back in court on March 4 for a preliminary hearing.

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