Volkswagen engineer sentenced by Michigan judge for emissions conspiracy

Posted at 4:48 PM, Aug 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-25 16:48:27-04

A Volkswagen engineer was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison on Friday by U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan.

James Robert Liang, 63, of Newbury Park, California, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act. 

Liang played a role in a nearly ten-year conspiracy to defraud U.S. regulators and U.S. Volkswagen customers by implementing software specifically designed to cheat U.S. emissions tests in hundreds of thousands of Volkswagen "clean diesel" vehicles.

He was an employee of Volkswagen AG from 1983 until May 2008, working in its diesel development department in Wolfsburg, Germany, according to court documents.

"This sentence sends a strong message of deterrence to automotive engineers and executives who should think twice before knowingly breaking United States laws for the benefit of their employer," said Acting United States Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch.

David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Division of the FBI, said the actions of Liang and his co-conspirators significantly impacted thousands of victim consumers.

"Today's sentencing is significant as it demonstrates there is and will be personal culpability for corporate executives who knowingly cheat American consumers, violate federal laws and purposely utilize technologies that further endanger our environment."