A federal judge in MI has sentenced a former high-level Volkswagen manager to seven years in prison for his part in the scheme to cheat emissions tests and defraud consumers. He pleaded guilty in August to charges that included defrauding the United States and violating the Clean Air Act.
Prosecutors say Schmidt, a German national, lied to USA environmental authorities, lied to investigators and encouraged others at VW to destroy arguments.
He is one of eight people charged by USA authorities in the emissions scandal, which involved installing software in some 500,000 VW 2.0 liter diesel vehicles sold in the US from 2009 through 2015 to make USA authorities believe that the vehicles met USA emissions standards.
Federal courts have ordered Volkswagen to spend more than $1 billion to buy back or fix the affected cars. "You saw this as your opportunity to shine ... and climb the corporate ladder at VW".
Schmidt, a German citizen who lived in Detroit as an emissions compliance executive for VW, was arrested in Miami on vacation last January.
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Defense lawyers had sought a sentence of only 40 months and a $100,000 fine, saying Schmidt's participation in the conspiracy had not occurred until nine years after it began and that he had expressed remorse.
The government said he later misled United States investigators and destroyed documents.
He is the highest-ranking VW employee to be convicted in the scheme in the USA and the chances that the U.S. authorities will prosecute more senior VW executives are slim as most are in Germany, which is unlikely to extradite its citizens to stand trial in the US. The software allowed the cars to pass emissions tests under lab conditions, while disabling the emissions-control software under real-world driving conditions so the cars would have better performance. But his lawyers point out that he wasn't involved when the scheme was hatched years earlier by the company.
"Schmidt sent detailed updates to VW management in Germany apprising them of precisely what he had said, and making it obvious that he was following the script of deception and deceit that VW, with Schmidt's input, had chosen", prosecutors told the court last month.
VW pleaded guilty as a corporation in March and agreed to pay billions of dollars in fines.