Former Volkswagen engineer and German citizen James Liang was sentenced on Friday in a Detroit court to 40 months in prison and given a fine of $200,000 for his involvement in the Volkswagen Group’s diesel scandal.
The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox and was harsher than expected since Liang, who helped develop the defeat device software designed to hide emissions from regulators, had pleaded guilty to charges and was helping prosecutors with their investigations.
Prosecutors were seeking three years and a fine of $20,000, while Liang’s lawyers had sought a lighter sentence of home detention in California, community service, and a nominal fine.
Cox wanted to send a message with the tough sentence to deter other auto industry engineers and executives from coming up with similar schemes. Cox described the scandal as a “stunning fraud on the American consumer” and a “very serious and troubling crime against our economic system.”
Liang isn’t the only VW employee facing court over the scandal. Oliver Schmidt, also a German citizen, is scheduled to be sentenced in Detroit on December 6. He could face up to seven years in prison and a fine of between $40,000 and $400,000 after pleading guilty to conspiring to mislead regulators and other charges. Schmidt is a resident of Germany but was arrested earlier this year while on holiday in Florida.
Six other current and former VW executives have been charged though all are in Germany and unlikely to be extradited, except for Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio since he is an Italian citizen. The others, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, and Jürgen Peter, are all German citizens.
The VW Group has admitted that it used various software systems to deceive regulators in the United States and Europe from 2006 to 2015. In March, the automaker pleaded guilty to three felony charges for which it received multiple fines.