Volkswagen pleaded guilty Friday to charges of defrauding the government stemming from the 2015 fuel emissions cheating scandal.
The company’s plea marks the first time VW has pleaded guilty to charges from the so-called dieselgate, which affected more than 500,000 vehicles and cost the automaker billions of dollars.
VW admitted in 2015 to installing so-called defeat devices in hundreds of thousands of diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. The devices would only kick on during road conditions when emission measuring tools were not engaged.
“This a very, very, very serious crime,” U.S. District Judge Sean Cox said in court documents. “It is incumbent on me to make a considered decision,” he added.
Cox scheduled the sentencing hearing for April 21.
VW executives were charged in January of conspiring to dupe regulators on the environmental quality of its diesel vehicles. Oliver Schmidt, the first executive for the German automaker to be arrested in connection with the emission scandal, was among those charged.
The scandal eventually led to the Environmental Protection Agency notching out plans to investigate how the company’s executives managed to thwart the agency’s emission regulators.
EPA’s Office of Inspector General aims to determine if the agency’s existing internal controls are effective at detecting emissions fraud, according to a memo posted earlier this month on the agency’s website. The project is included in the OIG’s 2017 fiscal year plan.
“The anticipated benefit of this project,” according to the memo, “is to provide information to the public regarding the effectiveness of the EPA’s existing internal controls for its on-road vehicle emissions testing program.”
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