Oliver Schmidt, a former VW manager who worked for the German automaker in Auburn Hills, Michigan, pleaded guilty in the United States District Court in Detroit to conspiracy and violation of the Clean air in Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. He must be sentenced on December 6 and face a seven-year prison sentence, according to his plea agreement.
A federal judge in Detroit sentenced a former Volkswagen manager to seven years in prison on Wednesday and ordered him to pay $ 400,000 in the company's massive diesel emissions scandal, but Judge Sean Cox He made it clear that.
Cox described the former manager, Oliver Schmidt, as an opportunist and a significant player in Volkswagen's attempt to cover up. But he also pointed out that "senior management has not had to give an account" in a case that has hurt both consumers who thought they were getting a good product and blue collar workers and middle managers in VW. He said the VW case "attacks and destroys" the basis of the country's economic system: trust between buyers and sellers.
Cox had harsh words for Schmidt, as he saw no excuses for the highly educated mechanical engineer. He does not suffer from substance abuse common among criminals, comes from a good family and has a good economic position, with a base salary of $ 130,000, annual bonuses of $ 40,000 and a net worth of $ 1 million.
"You saw this trying to cover up this massive fraud in the United States as an opportunity to impress senior management at VW and therefore advance their career at VW," Cox told Schmidt.
Cox agreed with the United States Attorney's Office on his sentencing recommendation. The defense, led by attorney David DuMouchel of Detroit, had requested 40 months and a $ 100,000 fine.
Prosecutors described Schmidt, a German citizen who will be deported after serving his sentence, as non-cooperative. They said he destroyed documents relevant to the investigation and encouraged subordinates to do the same, lied about his involvement and was a key player in the conspiracy, which cost VW about $ 17 billion in civil settlements and $ 4.3 billion additional to resolve criminal charges. 19659008] According to court officials, many other employees of VW and Audi have been charged, but remain at large in the case.
The company installed the so-called defeat devices, a type of software, in their diesel vehicles that were designed to make the vehicles function differently on the road and under test conditions, which led to significantly higher levels of pollution in the actual use that allowed. Authorities said VW installed the software on approximately 500,000 2.0-liter diesel vehicles sold in the United States between 2009 and 2015.
Ben Singer, deputy director of the criminal division of the local Federal Attorney's Office, said Schmidt was the "conduit between the high people in Germany and the regulators".
He noted that Schmidt directly informed former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn directly in July 2015. Singer said that Schmidt is not the most guilty person in the case, although he did not disclose who he thinks it is  Schmidt's lawyers said that he was a 48-year-old engineer with no criminal record who was "less guilty" than others, including the defendant and engineer James Liang, who was sentenced in August to 40 months in prison. They presented numerous letters from relatives and friends that proved Schmidt's character in an effort to convince the judge to consider a minor sentence.
DuMouchel noted that Schmidt was not the mastermind of the plan and became involved later than others. He discussed the claim that Schmidt was a decision maker, portraying him instead as someone who actually did what he was told. He also disagreed that Schmidt had intentionally erased documents to keep them secret.
Schmidt pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy and violation of the Clean Air Act, both felonies. A more serious charge of electronic fraud was dismissed as part of his statement.
Schmidt worked at the Volkswagen research and development center in Auburn Hills, where he was general manager of the company's Office of Engineering and Environment. It was also the automaker's liaison with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, and their interaction with regulators and the decision not to disclose the existence of defeat devices were key parts of the case.
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In a letter to the judge last month, Schmidt described the humiliation of the ordeal, including that his police photo becomes the international face of scandal, and claims to have been "misused by my own company" and cheated by his superiors.
"After reading the government's discovery during my many sleepless nights in my prison cell, I learned that my superiors who claimed not to have participated before me in VW knew of many, many years. In fact, something to my detriment, much of what I now know about what happened here I learned from reading the discovery, "Schmidt wrote.
Schmidt, dressed in a red suit and handcuffed to his wrists and ankles, also referred to the court on Wednesday, noting the difficulties of being separated from his family for so many years, including his wife, whom he married in 2010
But Schmidt, sometimes breaking down in tears, said that he is to blame for the interruption of his life.
"I accept responsibility for the mistake I made," said Schmidt.
Contact Eric D. Lawrence: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence.
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