VW engineer gets prison, $200,000 fine in diesel scandal

FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2016, file photo, Volkswagen engineer James Robert Liang, left, leaves court, in Detroit, after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy in the company's emissions cheating scandal. U.S. prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison sentence for a Volkswagen engineer who had a key role in the company's diesel emissions scandal. Liang is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, in Detroit federal court. He is one of two VW employees to plead guilty, although others charged in the case are in Germany and out of reach. (Virginia Lozano/Detroit News via AP, File)

DETROIT (AP) — A Volkswagen engineer who had a key role in the company’s diesel emissions scandal was sentenced Friday to more than three years in prison and a $200,000 fine, a steeper punishment than prosecutors requested.

James Robert Liang, 63, knew the German automaker was cheating and worked to cover it up, U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox said during the sentencing hearing in Detroit. The judge imposed a 40-month prison sentence.

“The conspiracy perpetrated a massive … and stunning fraud on the American consumer that attacked and destroyed the very foundation of our economic system,” Cox said.

Liang, who faces deportation to Germany upon his release from prison, declined to speak on his own behalf Friday. Prosecutors had requested a 36-month prison term and a $20,000 fine.

Prosecutors said Liang was aware that VW used software to cheat U.S. emission rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles. His lawyer said he’s not “greedy or immoral” but followed orders to keep his job and support his family.

“What occurred here was wrong,” defense attorney Daniel Nixon said. “But he wasn’t the mastermind. He was not motivated by greed.”

Liang pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Liang had asked the judge to consider a sentence of probation and 1,500 hours of community service.

He is one of two VW employees to plead guilty. Earlier this month, Oliver Schmidt, 48, a former manager of a VW engineering office in suburban Detroit, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges related to the scandal. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 6.

VW itself pleaded guilty in March to defrauding the U.S. government and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties, on top of billions more to buy back cars.

Others charged in the case are in Germany and out of reach.

Volkswagen and U.S. environmental regulators announced agreement last month on a plan for the automaker to fix most of the diesel cars involved in the emissions cheating scandal.

Volkswagen has admitted that the cars were sold with illegal software programmed to turn on emissions controls during government lab tests and turn them off while on the road. Investigators determined that the cars emitted more than 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems in humans.

The company got away with the scheme for seven years until independent researchers reported it to government regulators.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s