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VW pleads guilty to criminal charges in diesel emissions scandal

VWVolkswagen pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to fraud, obstruction of justice, and falsifying statements, as part of a $4.3 billion settlement with federal regulators on the company’s decade-long scheme to sell diesel vehicles containing software designed to cheat on U.S. emissions tests.

As part of the plea, VW agreed to pay a $2.8 billion criminal fine. In January 2017, VW had agreed to plead guilty to resolve the criminal charges.

“Eighteen months after news of Volkswagen’s emission scandal broke, we're glad to see the company finally admit to criminal wrongdoing,” said Mike Litt, consumer program advocate at U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “This kind of company admission is a big deal.”

Litt said executives responsible for defrauding consumers and government regulators should pay with jail time.

“The VW scandal is one of the biggest corporate crimes in history,” he said. “We need to make sure executives and their companies know that crime doesn’t pay.”

VW pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan.

VW pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States and VW’s U.S. customers and to violating the Clean Air Act by lying and misleading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Customers about whether some VW, Audi, and Porsche diesel vehicles complied with U.S. emissions standards. VW used cheating software to get around testing procedures and hid information about its cheating.

VW also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for destroying documents related to the scheme.  

In addition, VW pleaded guilty to importing the cars into the U.S. using false statements about the vehicles’ compliance with emissions limits.

After accepting VW’s plea, Cox scheduled the company’s sentencing for April 21.

The FBI and EPA’s Civil Investigation Division investigated the case.

For information on the problems VW faces in Europe related to its emissions scandal, see The New York Times article “As VW Pleads Guilty in U.S. Over Diesel Scandal, Trouble Looms in Europe.”

Copyright 2017, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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