The second Volkswagen executive in less than half a year has been sentenced to prison for his role in the automaker’s diesel-emissions scandal, according to reports from a Detroit federal court.
Oliver Schmidt, 48, formerly general manager of the company’s environmental office in Michigan, was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay a $400,000 fine. Schmidt was arrested by the FBI in January while visiting Miami after the Department of Justice issued a warrant for him and five other executives in Germany. Volkswagen pleaded guilty as a corporation that month to three criminal felony charges and was ordered to pay $4.3 billion as part of a settlement. U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox called Schmidt a “key conspirator” who “knowingly misled and lied to government officials,” as quoted by Automotive News reporter Larry Vellequette.
“VW is not going to walk into this room. VW is a group of individuals, and it is individuals who make choices,” said prosecutor Ben Singer. “Maybe it didn’t start out as Mr. Schmidt’s scheme, but it became his scheme. And that’s important.”
Schmidt, according to Automotive News, said he learned of the defeat device in August 2015 and agreed to “talking points” from VW management prior to speaking with California environmental regulators. Those were later found to be lies, although Schmidt had actually attempted, via email to the head of Volkswagen of America in 2014, to warn management regarding a potential indictment and what the Automotive News report called “economic risks.”
“For the disruption of my life, I only have to blame myself,” said Schmidt during his sentencing. “I justified my decisions by telling myself that I was obliged to speak for my superiors. The man that stands before you today no longer believes that.”
James Robert Liang, 63, an engineer who was not part of the original federal indictment from January 2017, was sentenced to 40 months and ordered to pay a $200,000 fine in August. Liang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and to committing wire fraud in violating the Clean Air Act back in September 2016.