A former Volkswagen AG compliance executive agreed to plead guilty in the U.S. to criminal charges stemming from his alleged role in the German auto maker’s yearslong emissions-cheating deception, a court spokesman said.
Oliver Schmidt, a German citizen who for several years headed Volkswagen’s environment and engineering office in Auburn Hills, Mich., faces charges that he conspired to defraud U.S. officials and customers with diesel-powered vehicles featuring illegal software that duped government emissions tests.
Prosecutors and lawyers in the criminal case told a federal judge Tuesday morning that Mr. Schmidt has agreed to plead guilty, a spokesman for the U.S. District Court in Detroit said. Mr. Schmidt is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 4, the spokesman said. Mr. Schmidt had been awaiting trial while behind bars in Michigan.
A lawyer for Mr. Schmidt declined to comment. A Volkswagen spokeswoman said the auto maker continues to cooperate with U.S. Justice Department probes of individuals and declined to comment further.
Volkswagen in March pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the U.S. and has admitted to rigging nearly 600,000 diesel-powered vehicles with illegal software that allowed them to pass government emissions tests and then pollute far beyond legal limits on the road.
The company has said the software is on some 11 million vehicles globally. In the U.S. alone, legal settlements could cost Volkswagen more than $25 billion depending on how many vehicles the auto maker ends up repurchasing to compensate consumers.
Mr. Schmidt is one of eight individuals charged in the U.S. in Volkswagen’s emissions cheating. A former engine-development manager at Volkswagen luxury-unit Audi was charged earlier this month. One engineer has pleaded guilty and is set to be sentenced in late August. Others charged are believed to reside in Germany and aren’t likely to be extradited to the U.S. to face charges.
Judges have denied Mr. Schmidt’s attempts to be released from prison on bond amid concerns he would flee before appearing for required court dates. The charges against Mr. Schmidt include conspiracy, wire fraud and violations of the Clean Air Act.
The terms of Mr. Schmidt’s guilty plea and his expected prison time or other punishments remained unclear. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit, which is pursuing the case alongside Justice Department prosecutors in Washington, declined to comment on the agreement’s terms.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Mr. Schmidt in January at Miami International Airport before he boarded a flight to Germany. When heading Volkswagen’s environment and engineering office in Michigan from 2012 to early 2015, he liaised with U.S. and California regulators on compliance matters. Volkswagen in September 2015 admitted to using so-called defeat devices to evade government emissions requirements.
Write to Mike Spector at [email protected]