Former VW exec pleads guilty in dieselgate case
A former Volkswagen AG executive indicted in the automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to defrauding the United States and violating the Clean Air Act.
Oliver Schmidt, a German national, pleaded guilty to two charges in the case: conspiracy to defraud the United States to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act; and for violating the Clean Air Act. A third charge of wire fraud had been dropped Thursday.
Friday’s guilty plea in Detroit comes with a government guideline for sentencing of 84 months in federal prison and a fine ranging from $40,000 to $400,000.
Following the prison term, Schmidt, 48, could be deported, federal Judge Sean Cox said.
Schmidt is VW’s former top emissions compliance manager for the United States. He worked in VW’s Auburn Hills offices from 2012 to February 2015. He was arrested in Florida in January for alleged involvement in one of the largest alleged corporate criminal schemes in U.S. history.
Dressed in a red jumpsuit from the Milan federal prison in York Charter Township and handcuffed, Schmidt said in the summer of 2015 he was told Volkswagen had installed defeat devices on its clean diesel vehicles that made the vehicle perform to meet emissions standards when tested. When the car was driven by consumers and outside of tests, it did not perform to those standards.
Schmidt when entering his guilty plea said he did not disclose those devices to officials during multiple telephone calls, meetings and filings.
He will be sentenced in federal court in Detroit on Dec. 6.
Schmidt had been arraigned Thursday on revised charges and stood mute to charges. Magistrate Judge David Grand entered a not-guilty plea on Schmidt’s behalf.
Cox in March denied Schmidt a pretrial bond release. His trial had been scheduled to begin in January 2018.
Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty in March to three criminal charges related to the automaker’s decade-long conspiracy to rig nearly 600,000 diesel cars and evade U.S. emission standards. The company was fined a record-setting $2.8 billion and faces three years of probation.
Current and former VW executives were indicted in what regulators called a 10-year conspiracy to rig thousands of diesel cars to evade emission standards. Also charged: Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis and Jürgen Peter, all of Germany.
Another former Volkswagen executive has already pleaded guilty.
In September, James Robert Liang, head of diesel competence for VW from 2008 to June 2016, pleaded guilty in Detroit to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Liang, 63, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 25.