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Press Release

Novi Restaurant Owner and Wife Plead Guilty to Harboring Undocumented Workers

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

The owner of a Novi restaurant and his wife pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and harboring undocumented workers for commercial advantage and private financial gain, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.


McQuade was joined in the announcement by Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Chief David Molloy, Novi Police Department.


Roger Tam, 56, and his wife, Ada Lei, 49, of Novi, entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani in Detroit.


"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. "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.”


“These defendants are accepting responsibility for harboring undocumented workers and conspiracy, but we disagree about the appropriate sentencing guidelines that apply,” McQuade said. “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.”


According to court records, HSI special agents and officers with the Novi Police Department executed federal and state search warrants at a Novi residence owned by the Tams where five Mexican nationals died as a result of a fire that occurred on January 31, 2016. Department of Homeland Security databases revealed that all five men were illegally present in the United States.


Evidence obtained during the course of the investigation showed that the five Mexican nationals were hired by the defendants to work at their restaurant, Kim’s Garden, in Novi. As a benefit of their employment, the Mexican nationals resided at the couple’s Novi home and were transported to and from the restaurant for work. Tam admitted that the deceased individuals were employees at Kim’s Garden, that they were paid in cash, and that they were allowed to reside in the basement of Tam’s home.


The Tams each face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been set for June 13, 2017.


This case was investigated by the Novi Police Department and HSI with assistance from ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol and the Oakland County Sherriff’s Office

Updated February 1, 2017