Volkswagen engineer sentenced for role in emissions cheating

Volkswagen engineer sentenced for role in emissions cheating

A Volkswagen engineer was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison and two years of supervised release Friday for his role in designing and implementing software the company used to cheat on diesel emissions tests.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said James Robert Liang, 63, of Newbury Park, Calif., admitted to his role in the defrauding federal regulators when he pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., commit wire fraud and violate the Clean Air Act. 

The DOJ said when Liang and his co-conspirators realized they could not design a diesel engine that would meet stricter federal emissions standards in the U.S., they designed and implemented software that was ultimately used to cheat the emissions tests on hundreds of thousands of Volkswagen “clean diesel” vehicles sold in the U.S.

Volkswagen Group was ordered to pay a $2.8 billion fine to the federal government in April as part of a larger $4.3 billion settlement.

The deal the company reached with federal officials, including the DOJ and the Environmental Protection Agency, was reportedly a fraction of the $17 billion to $34 billion that Volkswagen could have been ordered to pay under the Clean Air Act for willfully violating emissions rules.

Federal officials said Laing, who worked as the leader of diesel competence at VW’s testing facility in Oxnard, Calif., admitted his co-conspirators lied to state and federal regulators for more than eight years, telling them that the VW diesel vehicles complied with U.S. emissions standards.