Novi man gets 9 months for employing five immigrants who died in house fire

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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 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. 

5 victims in Novi house fire died from smoke, soot inhalation

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.

Roger Tam and his wife Ada Lei both pleaded guilty to all six charges in the case in February, after the January 31, 2017, house fire on Mystic Forrest in Novi.

Tam's wife, Ada Mei Lei, wasn't given a prison sentence.

RELATED: Restaurant owner, wife charged with harboring undocumented immigrants following house fire deaths

The immigrants were hired with no paperwork and worked basically under the table for cash. Tam drove the Mexicans to work and back each night. The government said, the defendants, therefore, profited by these illegal aliens. 

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