VW Engineer Sentenced To 40 Months In Dieselgate Scandal
Judge Adds Time, Increases Fine
If the judgment handed down to the lone Volkswagen engineer convicted in the scam is any indication of the severity of what happened, the others charged in the emissions scandal had better remain in Germany beyond the reach of U.S. law. Though James Liang assisted the Justice Department in providing information on the scandal, a very frustrated U.S. District Court Judge Jean Cox surprised attorneys prosecuting the case by handing down a more severe sentence than they had sought.
Judge Hands Down Harsher Sentence
Liang, a 30-year employee of the automaker, was given 40 months in prison and a $200,000 fine for his part in the massive scandal that began with conversations between engineers and management in 2006 and continued for nearly 10 years. Justice Department lawyers had recommended a 36-month sentence and a $20,000 fine. Liang, 63, agreed to repatriation to Germany after he serves his sentence. He arrived in the U.S. to help with the implementation of diesel technology in 2008.
Judge Cox, in his decision, expressed his frustration with the Dieselgate scandal and the officials who committed it. As quoted in the Detroit News, the jurist said:
“The conspiracy perpetrated a massive … and stunning fraud on the American consumer that attacked and destroyed the very foundation of our economic system. It was a very serious and troubling crime. Your cooperation and regret is noted, but it doesn’t excuse your conduct.”
Liang’s attorney, Daniel Nixon, countered by saying Liang “is not a greedy or immoral man. He wasn’t the mastermind. He was blindly – blindly – executing misguided loyalty to his employer.”
Manager Held In U.S. Awaiting Sentence
Meanwhile, Oliver Schmidt, an executive much nearer to the center of the scandal and charged with 11 counts of conspiracy and fraud, awaits sentencing and could be facing 7 years in prison. Schmidt was arrested in January as he attempted to board a plane back to Germany following a vacation in Florida. He is the sole manager in custody regarding the scandal. The others have remained in Germany, well beyond the reach of even the U.S. government. They have been advised by their attorneys to stay there.
Still, the scandal has been costly for Volkswagen. In settling with consumers, dealers, the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission, the automaker has agreed to more than $25 billion in penalties. It is a figure likely to grow as prosecutors in Germany are continuing their investigation into the scandal and as consumer and investor suits go through the courts.