A former Volkswagen engineer has been sentenced to 40 months in prison for his role in the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal. A federal judge in Michigan sentenced VW engineer James Liang to serve more than three years in prison and pay a $200,000 fine for helping the German automaker hide the excess emissions on VW and Audi diesel models from regulators and consumers.
In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted that it had installed an emissions â€śdefeat deviceâ€ť on 11 million VW and Audi â€śTDI Clean Dieselâ€ť models worldwide. This defeat device was designed to detect when the affected models were undergoing emissions testing and reduce the amount of pollution released by their engines. Under normal driving conditions, the affected VW and Audi diesel models released levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) up to 40-times greater than the maximum level allowed under the Clean Air Act.
According to federal prosecutors, Liang played a key role in designing the emissions system that helped Volkswagen evade federal emissions standards. U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox said that the former engineer helped perpetuate a â€śstunning fraud on the American consumerâ€ť that represented â€śa very serious and troubling crime against our economic system.â€ť
Liang pleaded guilty to misleading regulators earlier this year. The $200,000 fine ordered by Judge Cox was 10-times the amount sought by federal prosecutors. Liang could have received as many as five years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Judge Cox said that he hoped the 40 month sentence he imposed on Liang would deter other automakers from engaging in similar acts of emissions fraud.
In July 2016, Volkswagen agreed to pay as much as $15.3 billion to settle lawsuits filed by consumers over the companyâ€™s emissions cheating. The settlement included more than $10 billion in payments to consumers who purchased VW or Audi models affected by the Dieselgate scandal, as well as $2.7 billion in fines imposed by the EPA, and $603 million in payments to state attorney generals who had filed lawsuits against Volkswagen over the companyâ€™s emissions cheating.
Volkswagen also pleaded guilty in March 2017 to three criminal charges filed by federal prosecutors over the companyâ€™s emissions cheating scheme. The company agreed to spend up to $25 billion to resolve claims from vehicle owners or regulators. Volkswagen also agreed to buy back as many as 500,000 VW and Audi models affected by the Dieselgate scandal as part of the settlement.
Federal prosecutors have also filed charges against eight Volkswagen executives for their alleged role in the companyâ€™s emissions cheating conspiracy. One of these executives, Oliver Schmidt, pled guilty to the charges against him and is scheduled to be sentenced in Detroit in December. Schmidt could face up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $400,000 for his role in the Dieselgate scandal.
Consumers who own or lease one of the vehicles affected by these emissions cheating scandals may be eligible to file a lawsuit in order to recover damages for the excess costs they incurred and the loss of value to their vehicles. The first step in taking legal actions is to consult with an experienced attorney, who can advise you regarding your legal rights.
Heygood, Orr & Pearson has filed lawsuits on behalf of VW and Audi owners whose vehicles were involved in the Volkswagenâ€™s emissions cheating. One of our partners, Michael Heygood, was named to the Plaintiffsâ€™ Steering Committee (PSC) that is overseeing the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in California on behalf of VW and Audi owners who filed lawsuits against Volkswagen. Heygood, Orr & Pearson expects to remain involved in the Dieselgate lawsuits throughout the litigation process, and will work to achieve the best possible results for consumers who were harmed by VWâ€™s fraudulent conduct.
For more information about the emissions cheating lawsuits filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson and to find out if you qualify to file a claim, contact our law office by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by filling out the free case evaluation form located at the top of this page.