The second Volkswagen Group employee to be arrested in the US for his involvement in the company’s emissions cheating scandal has pled guilty in US District Court in Detroit this morning, according to Reuters. Oliver Schmidt, who was arrested back in January, faces up to seven years in prison and fines between $40,000 to $400,000 after pleading guilty to two separate charges: conspiracy to defraud the US government, and violating the Clean Air Act.
Schmidt was charged with 11 felony counts earlier this year and faced a maximum of up to 169 years in prison before making a plea deal with prosecutors. He will be sentenced later this year.
Schmidt is one of eight VW executives charged in the US for their roles in the scandal, which has come to be known as Dieselgate. In 2015, an EPA investigation found that Volkswagen had developed a way to make it appear that many of its diesel cars complied with emissions regulations. Volkswagen installed software on these cars that could detect when a US emissions test was being performed. The car would then limit the emissions until the test was done. Back on the road, the EPA says the affected cars were putting up to 40 times as many pollutants into the atmosphere as environmental regulations allow.
Schmidt is only the second VW employee to be prosecuted in the US; the rest are still in Germany, which does not extradite citizens. The first was James Liang, an engineer who ran the company’s Diesel Competence unit in the US. Liang pled guilty last fall.
Volkswagen itself pled guilty to criminal charges earlier this year after reaching a $4.3 billion settlement with US regulators in January, but it’s still expected to pay out around $20 billion more in civil court. It’s not alone, either: a handful of other major car companies are currently suspected of or under investigation for similar behavior, and a recent report from Der Spiegel alleges that German automakers have been colluding to cheat US emissions regulations since the 1990s.