Ex-Official with Volkswagen Admits to Role in Emissions Scandal
Germany citizen Oliver Schmidt, who for a number of years headed the engineering and environment offices for Volkswagen in Michigan, filed a guilty plea in a federal court in Detroit Friday, admitting that he helped the vehicles that were diesel-powered evade emissions requirements in the U.S.
Schmidt, who is 48, was charged with taking part in a conspiracy for close to one decade to defraud officials and car buyers in the U.S. with vehicles that included illegal software that allowed them to dupe emissions tests but pollute at the same time well beyond the legal limits while on the road.
Earlier Volkswagen pleaded guilty to other criminal charges that stemmed from the scandal, while other individuals were charged as well.
Federal prosecutors filed charges against Schmidt of conspiracy to defraud the United States, the Clean Air Act and wire fraud. Prosecutors leveled another stand-alone charge of violation of the Clean Air Act.
The guilty plea of Schmidt was accepted by District Judge Sean Cox on Friday and Schmidt is scheduled for sentencing December 6.
Under the terms of this plea agreement between federal prosecutors and attorneys representing Schmidt, the former VW executive faces as many as seven years behind bars and a fine of $40,000 to $400,000.
This agreement also requires Schmidt to be deported from the United States after he completes his term in prison.
Prosecutors dropped a wire fraud charge for Schmidt’s plea, said a spokesperson at the court.
In March, Volkswagen filed guilty pleas to criminal charges and admitted to rigging close to 600,000 vehicles with diesel engines with special software that was designed to evade testing for emissions.
Company officials said that the software is installed in over 11 million vehicles worldwide.
A spokesperson for VW said that the automaker is continuing to cooperate with officials from the Justice Department probes of different individuals, but would not comment any further.
In just the U.S., legal settlements might reach over $25 billion for VW, depending upon the number of vehicles VW repurchases to compensate the consumer.
Schmidt, while was dressed in a prison jumpsuit and wearing shackles, admitted in court on Friday that he was aware of the use by VW of the software to mislead regulators.