His original defense: he was merely following orders.
Meet Oliver Schmidt, age 48, formerly a high-ranking Volkswagen executive based in the US. He has just been sentenced to seven years in prison and handed a $400,000 fine. He plead guilty last August to two felony charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating the Clean Air Act, according to Automotive News. Schmidt was actually arrested by the FBI last January in Miami after the Justice Department issued an arrest warrant for him and five other now former VW executives.
However, those other executives were in Germany while Schmidt was on his way back to his home land following a family vacation in Florida. Schmidt will be serving his sentence at the federal penitentiary in Milan, Michigan. He’s actually been there since March and will get credit for the 11 months he’s been behind bars. All told, eight former VW engineers or executives, both current and former, have been charged as part of the automaker’s diesel emissions deception. As for Schmidt, prosecutors found evidence that he was aware of VW’s deception as far back as 2014. That’s when he first became aware of testing being done at West Virginia University that revealed the emissions discrepancy.
Schmidt immediately notified his superiors, such as the head of Volkswagen of America, warning of the economic risks and even an indictment. Schmidt’s lawyer claims he was simply following orders. Prosecutors argued Schmidt was a key player in keeping the diesel conspiracy quiet. Heck, he even deleted evidence. He also briefed then CEO Martin Winterkorn in July 2015 – two months before the EPA officially announced the automaker purposely installed defeat devices in its diesel road cars. So now Schmidt is heading off to prison, Winterkorn remains free, and Volkswagen continues to stress Dieselgate is a thing of the past.