A Volkswagen official at the heart of the German automaker’s wide-ranging diesel emissions cheating scandal plans to plead guilty in the criminal case.
Oliver Schmidt’s agreement was announced during a 20-minute status conference, according to a Tuesday statement from the U.S. district court in Detroit.
A plea hearing is set for Aug. 4.
Schmidt, a German national and Volkswagen’s former top emissions compliance manager for the United States, had been charged with conspiracy. He worked at a Volkswagen research and development center outside Detroit.
He is accused of being a central figure in the VW case that led to civil settlements worth about $17 billion for U.S. consumers and dealers who own the automaker’s diesel vehicles. Settling criminal charges has cost VW about $4.3 billion. The company’s emissions cheating was uncovered in 2015.
Schmidt did not create the software that helped cheat emissions tests, but the government has said he took part in the coverup.
In its indictment, the government said Schmidt told officials from the California Air Resources Board in August 2015 that emissions tests were flawed because of “abnormalities” or “irregularities” without revealing that Volkswagen had intentionally designed software “to detect, evade and defeat U.S. emissions testing.”
He was one of six Volkswagen employees indicted in January. An engineer, James Robert Liang, pleaded guilty last fall to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Lawrence and Snavely write for the Detroit Free Press/McClatchy.