A US court on Friday sentenced a former Volkswagen engineer to nearly three and a half years in prison for his role in the company’s emissions cheating scandal.
James Robert Liang was sentenced to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay a $200,000 fine after pleading guilty to charges he conspired to defraud the United States and violate the Clean Air Act, the court announced.
The sentencing comes several weeks after former VW executive Oliver Schmidt pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in the “dieselgate” matter, which has brought one of the world’s top automakers into disgrace.
Liang was ordered to serve two years of supervised release upon his release from prison, according to a spokesman for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
However, US authorities may choose to deport Liang to Germany once he is released, the spokesman said.
The sentence was significantly harsher than what prosecutors had recommended.
In exchange for Liang’s cooperation, Justice Department officials had recommended a sentence of only three years and a fine of just $20,000.
A lawyer for Liang had instead asked for a year of probation and home confinement, noting that Liang’s cooperation had resulted in criminal charges against three other defendants.
Liang pleaded guilty in September to a role in a nine-year conspiracy to develop devices that hid emissions of harmful nitrogen oxide during pollution tests on Volkswagen’s diesel-powered cars.
Prosecutors have reportedly charged as many as eight current and former executives in connection with the emissions scandal, with Liang being among the most junior.
The company has set aside more than $24 billion to cover the fines and compensation in the scandal, in which it admitted in 2015 to equipping about 11 million cars worldwide with so-called defeat devices to mask emissions.
In March, Volkswagen brought an end to Washington’s criminal pursuit of the company, agreeing to pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal fines and plead guilty to charges it likewise had defrauded the United States and violated the Clean Air Act.
The March settlement was in addition to the $17.5 billion that the company agreed to pay to US and Californian authorities and to compensate car owners and dealers, as well as to cover the costs of environmental remediation.
Volkswagen’s emissions cheating – which allowed the company to sell diesel cars without meeting emissions standards that would have hurt performance – persisted for seven years until it was discovered by independent researchers.