VW executive given the maximum prison sentence for his role in Dieselgate

He previously led the company’s US environmental and engineering office

The man who was in charge of Volkswagen’s US environmental and engineering office before the Dieselgate scandal has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Oliver Schmidt had previously pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to defraud the US government in August for his role in Dieselgate, where VW was found to have used hidden software to hide the fact that many of its cars weren’t meeting emissions standards.

The prison term and an accompanying $400,000 fine were announced at a sentencing hearing today in a US District Court in Detroit. They represent the maximum penalties for those charges.

Schmidt originally faced up to 169 years in prison on 11 felony counts before he entered his guilty plea. He is the second VW employee to be sentenced in the United States for his role in the Dieselgate scandal. Former engineer James Liang was sentenced in August to 40 months in prison and a $200,000 fine by the same District Court judge, Sean Cox.

In a letter to the judge published earlier this week, Schmidt said he felt like he was “misused” by VW in the diesel scandal. He argued that he was following a script written by the company’s management and one of its lawyers when he lied to the California Air Resources Board about the compliance of VW’s cars with US regulations, and that he had come on board after the scheme was devised.

Schmidt’s plea for leniency apparently fell flat. Cox called him a “key conspirator” during the sentencing hearing today, according to Automotive News’ Larry Vellequette. Prosecutors in the case used information gleaned from VW’s own internal investigation into the scandal that apparently shows Schmidt deleted documents in an attempt to cover up his actions. Cox saw these and other actions as evidence that Schmidt was trying to use the coverup to advance his career.

Six other executives have been charged in the US over their involvement in the Dieselgate scandal. The company pleaded guilty in March.