A former Volkswagen official, Oliver Schmidt, got a seven-year prison sentence and a $400,000 fine over the role he played in the so-called "Dieselgate" emissions fraud.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal made huge waves in early 2016 and heads were bound to roll. Schmidt, a U.S.-based Volkswagen manager in charge of emissions issues, pleaded guilty back in August to charges of conspiring to violate clean-air laws and mislead regulators.
Maximum Prison Sentence For Ex-Volkswagen Executive
A U.S. federal judge in Detroit has now sentenced Schmidt to seven years in prison and a $400,000 fine. These were the maximum possible under the plea deal the executive made with prosecutors back in August. Overall, Dieselgate has cost Volkswagen roughly $30 billion and Schmidt played a big role in the whole matter.
Judge Sean Cox had little sympathy for Schmidt, a highly-trained mechanical engineer who had several opportunities to come clean to regulators, and yet he chose to lie each time. Judge Cox described the former Volkswagen manager as an opportunist who played a key role in the entire matter.
As opposed to other criminals who struggled with tougher conditions, the judge pointed out that Schmidt was not addicted to any substances, he came from a good family, he had a good base salary and attractive annual bonuses. The judge saw now excuses for Schmidt, which is why he opted for the maximum sentence and penalty allowed under plea.
Oliver Schmidt, Key Conspirator And Opportunist
"It is my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States," Judge Sean Cox told Schmidt upon issuing the sentence. "You saw this as your opportunity to shine ... and climb the corporate ladder at VW."
At the same time, Judge Cox also highlighted that senior Volkswagen management has yet pay for their actions, although the case did significant damage to consumers and other Volkswagen workers who were not involved in the scheme. Volkswagen pleaded guilty back in March to three felony counts as part of a plea deal to settle U.S. charges that it resorted to cheating software in cars to trick emissions tests. So far, U.S. prosecutors have charged eight former and current Volkswagen employees, five of whom are still free today.
Schmidt, for his part, came prepared with a written statement that he read in court. The former Volkswagen executive again acknowledged his part in the problem and expressed his regret over the decisions he made, which also put his family in a tough spot since he was arrested in January.
Had he not made a plea deal, Schmidt could have faced a maximum prison sentence of up to 169 years as he was facing 11 felony counts. Prosecutors dropped most counts when Schmidt pleaded guilty and agreed to be deported once he finishes serving his time in prison.