- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2018

Volkswagen AG’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged in a federal court with conspiracy and wire fraud charges related to the automaker’s plan to cheat U.S. diesel emissions testing, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.

Mr. Winterkorn was charged in the Eastern District of Michigan with conspiracy to the defraud the United States, three counts of wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act, court documents reviewed.

Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it added a so-called defeat device to about 11 million diesel cars around the globe. A defeat device is software embedded in the vehicle that enabled cars to recognize laboratory testing conditions so it could lower its emissions to meet regulatory guidelines.

Mr. Winterkorn resigned from the German automaker after the scandal became public. He is the highest-ranking Volkswagen executive and the ninth overall to be charged in the case.

Prosecutors said Mr. Winterkorn was aware of the cheating in May 2014 and was informed again in July 2014. The indictment alleges he continued to deceive regulators even after becoming aware of the cheating.

“If you try to deceive the United States then you will pay a heavy price,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement announcing the indictment. “The indictment unsealed today alleges Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company. These are serious allegations and we will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”

In March 2017, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to charges that it deceived federal government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. As part of that plea deal, Volkswagen paid $2.8 billion and agreed to impose a corporate compliance monitor for at least three years.

Two former Volkswagen engineers Oliver Schmidt and James Liang pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy and are now serving sentences of 84 months and 40 months, respectively. Five additional defendants, including former executives and senior managers were indicted in January 2017, but have not yet been apprehended. The Justice Department said those defendants are German citizens residing there.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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