DETROIT -- Oliver Schmidt, the former high-ranking executive who spearheaded Volkswagen's multiyear efforts keep its conspiracy to cheat on diesel emissions a secret from U.S. regulators and failed to cooperate with investigators, received the maximum sentence possible Wednesday from a federal judge in Detroit.
Schmidt, 48, was sentenced to seven years in prison and a $400,000 fine on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Sean Cox. In August, he pleaded guilty to two felony charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating the Clean Air Act. A third charge of aiding and abetting wire fraud was rolled into the conspiracy charge in a plea agreement.
Cox agreed to allow Schmidt to continue to serve his sentence at the federal penitentiary in Milan, Michigan, where he has been behind bars since March. As part of the sentence, Schmidt will get credit for the nearly 11 months that he has so far been incarcerated.
Schmidt, the former general manager of Volkswagen's U.S. Environment and Engineering Office in suburban Detroit, has been in custody since his arrest in January while attempting to return to Germany from a family vacation in Florida. His efforts to secure release on bail prior to his plea were rebuffed by Cox, who called him a "flight risk," a decision that was later upheld on appeal.
Schmidt is one of eight current or former Volkswagen engineers or executives charged in Volkswagen's global conspiracy to cheat on diesel emissions. However, only one other Volkswagen employee, engineer James Liang, has thus far faced justice.
Liang, who, unlike Schmidt, cooperated early on with investigators, was sentenced by Cox in late August to 40 months in prison -- longer than was sought by prosecutors -- in part, Cox said, because he was aware that he had to sentence Schmidt this month.