A Volkswagen engineer was sentenced Friday to more than three years in prison for his role in the company’s infamous emissions cheating scandal.
James Robert Liang was given 40 months and fined $200,000 for helping Volkswagen (VW) cheat on government emissions tests for some of the automaker’s diesel-powered vehicles.
U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox handed down a sentence that was much harsher than the 36-month prison term and a $20,000 fine requested by prosecutors. Liang asked for probation and 1,500 hours of community service.
Liang, 63, will be allowed to return to his home country, Germany, following his sentence. He is also allowed to appeal the ruling.
The sentencing comes nearly two years after reports that Volkswagen (VW) utilized software that skewed the results of government-mandated emissions tests for an estimated 500,000 VW and Audi 2.0 liter diesel cars released between 2009 and 2015. The scandal was the largest false advertising case the Federal Trade Commission had ever seen in its 102-year history.
“This is a very serious and stunning crime that destroys the foundation of our economic system, and that is trust,” Cox told Liang. “Without trust, the economy can’t function.”
Prosecutors said Liang did not mastermind the scheme, but contend he was instrumental in its implementation. Before the ruling, Liang’s attorney Danial Nixon said he “blindly executed a misguided loyalty to his employer”.
Liang was one of two Volkswagen engineers who pleaded guilty last year to charges of conspiracy to defraud the government.
Oliver Schmidt, the other executive, is expected to be sentenced in December.
Other executives have been charged, but they are in Germany and cannot be brought to the U.S. for trial.