A Volkswagen executive pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from a years-long scheme the German automaker created to skirt federal emissions regulations.
Oliver Schmidt, the former head of VW’s environmental and engineering facility in Michigan, pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal government and violating emissions laws. He faces a potential five-year prison sentence and a fine of more than $250,000 for his part in the scandal.
Schmidt admitted to conspiring with other company officials to using so-called cheat devices on several hundred thousand diesel vehicles to evade detection of high emission levels. He admitted to issuing false reports to environmental regulators.
His guilty plea comes after the company was sentenced in April to three years of probation for engaging in the nearly 10-year long scheme. VW must also undergo scrutiny from an independent regulator as part of a $4.3 billion settlement announced in January, as well as pay down a $2.8 billion criminal fine.
VW agreed to spend up to $25 billion to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and to make buy-back offers.
Schmidt was deemed a crucial cog in VW’s efforts to deceive the Environmental Protection Agency about the company’s compliance with emissions rules. He acted as a go-between to federal and California regulators while VW was allegedly engaged in a concerted effort to conceal the emissions fraud
He reported directly to Heinz-Jakob Neusser, the former head of engine development at VW, who is among several other executives to be charged in the massive dieselgate scandal, which has grown to include various auto-parts distributors in the automotive industry.
Schmidt joins James Robert Liang, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of conspiracy and violating the Clean Air Act, and is currently awaiting sentencing. There are other company executives in Germany who are awaiting a court date for their role in the scheme.
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