A United States court on Wednesday sentenced former Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt to seven years in prison for his role in the German automaker's "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal.
The prison sentence and $400,000 USA fine for Schmidt were the maximum possible under a plea deal in August the German national made with prosecutors after admitting to charges of conspiring to mislead U.S regulators and violate clean-air laws.
Per the New York Times, US District Judge Sean Cox told Schmidt, "You are a key conspirator responsible for the cover-up in the United States of a massive fraud perpetuated on the American consumer", at the end of a two-hour-long hearing.
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In exchange for his plea, federal prosecutors dropped multiple counts of wire fraud, which carry a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Schmidt agreed to be deported to Germany after serving his sentence.
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The judge sentenced Schmidt to five years in prison for the conspiracy count and a consecutive 24 months on the second count. But he didn't disclose rogue software that had long fooled authorities into believing that VW was meeting emissions rules on almost 600,000 vehicles.
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.
Schmidt's lawyer. David DuMouchel of Detroit, asked for a maximum of 40 months in prison and $100,000 fine.
Six current or former Volkswagen or Audi executives charged in the United States for the emissions scandal remain at large, including Richard Dorenkamp, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler and Bernd Gottweis, who were indicted in the same criminal case as Liang and Schmidt. The plan was hatched in 2006, and the vehicles were marketed as "clean diesel". According to the January 2017 complaint against Schmidt, the executive "offered technical reasons and excuses such as "irregularities" or "abnormalities" for the discrepancy without revealing the fundamental reason for the higher NOx measurements on the road: software intentionally installed in VW vehicles so the vehicles could detect and evade emissions testing".
VW pleaded guilty as a corporation in March and agreed to pay billions of dollars in fines.