Oliver Schmidt pleaded guilty on Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit in connection with a massive diesel emissions scandal that has cost the German automaker as much as $25 billion.
The VW executive, who was chief of VW's environmental and engineering center in Michigan, was arrested in January in Miami as he tried to return to Germany. At that time, Judge Sean Cox of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan ordered Schmidt to be held until his trial because he was judged to be a flight risk. Had he made his way back to Germany, that country does not allow citizens to be extradited to other countries.
Schmidt faces up to seven years in prison and a fine ranging between $40,000 and $400,000.
Schmidt was charged with 11 felony accounts early this year at which time federal prosecutors advised him he faced up to 169 years in prison. In return for pleading guilty, prosecutors dropped most of the counts against Schmidt.
Volkswagen plead guilty to three felony counts last March as part of a plea agreement regarding U.S. charges of installing software in its vehicles to dodge diesel emissions test failures. Volkswagen also agreed to buy back about a half-million affected vehicles and spend up to $25 billion in restitution.
Among those indicted earlier were Heinz-Jakob Neusser, former head of development for VW Brand and two former heads of engine development, Jens Hadler and Richard Dorenkamp. James Liang pleaded guilty to misleading regulators, is cooperating with prosecutors and will be sentenced on Aug. 25.
Other VW employees caught in the fraud are in Germany.