Oliver Schmidt, general manager of Volkswagen's environmental and engineering office in Auburn Hills, Michigan, pleaded guilty in August to his part in the diesel emissions scandal that affected almost 600,000 diesel vehicles, presumably in hopes of getting a lighter sentence in court on Wednesday.
However, US District Court Judge Sean Cox wasn't swayed, saying, "It is my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States. You saw this as your opportunity to shine and climb the corporate ladder at VW.” Judge Cox instead sentenced Oliver Schmidt to seven years in prison and fined him $400,000.
Schmidt's plea agreement was that he could be sentenced up to seven years in prison, fined between $40,000 and $400,000, or could be sentenced to up to four years of supervised release. Schmidt's lawyers argued for 40 months of supervised release and a $100,000 fine based on the 40-month prison sentence VW engineer James Liang was given. Judge Cox clearing ruled on the high end of the agreement, also ordering German national Schmidt to be deported back to Germany at the end of his prison time.
Schmidt was in charge of emissions at VW’s office in Michigan from 2012 to early 2015 during which time Volkswagen purposely mislead the EPA, claiming its diesel powered vehicles tested within the accepted parameters of the Clean Air Act by using secret software to game the testing system.
In a letter to Judge Cox, Schmidt wrote, "I must say that I feel misused by my own company in the diesel scandal or ‘Dieselgate."
But federal officials didn't see him in that light. “The defendant has a leadership role within VW. As a consequence of that role, he was literally in the room for important decisions during the height of the criminal scheme.”
Schmidt is one of the most senior executives to be charged in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal when the Environmental Protection Agency accused VW Group of installing illegal software on its diesel vehicles that would suppress the emissions control system while the car was being driven under normal driving conditions.
Other VW executives charged in the scheme live overseas.
Earlier this year, Volkswagen agreed to a settlement with U.S. with federal prosecutors, regulators, state attorneys general, dealers and consumers totalling $20 billion depending on how many vehicles the auto maker repurchases from aggrieved customers.
image: Broward County