Oliver Schmidt, the former head of Volkswagen's US regulatory compliance office from 2014 to 2015, was sentenced on Wednesday to seven years in prison for his role in the German automaker's emissions cheating scandal.
Facing 11 felonies for various wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government, Schmidt pleaded guilty in August and faced up to 169 years in prison. Prosecutors said this week they were seeking up to seven years, and on Wednesday, a judge agreed with them, court officials said.
Schmidt's sentence was handed down by Judge Sean Cox of the US District Court in Detroit. In a press release, the court said Schmidt received a five-year prison sentence for a conspiracy charge and 24 months for a criminal violation of the Clean Air Act. Cox also assessed a $US400,000 ($527,427) fine for Schmidt's role in what's now enshrined in history as Dieselgate.
In exchange for his guilty plea, the release said, federal prosecutors dropped several wire fraud charges, and Schmidt agreed to be deported to Germany after serving his sentence.
Schmidt, 48, is the highest-ranking VW employee to be convicted as part of the government's investigation into Dieselgate. In August, VW auto engineer James Liang received a 40 month sentence and a $US200,000 ($263,713) fine for his role in the scandal.
An additional six employees face charges from US authorities over Volkswagen's decision to install software in more than 500,000 diesel cars that were designed to skirt emissions tests. But, to date, five of the individuals remain at large.
Schmidt recently wrote a letter to Judge Cox, claiming he felt "misused" by Volkswagen.
"A script, or talking points, I was directed to follow for that meeting was approved by management level supervisors at VW, including a high-ranking in-house lawyer, " Schmidt wrote, according to the New York Times. "Regrettably, I agreed to follow it."
Schmidt ended up in US custody somewhat by chance. In January, authorities arrested him after he arrived in Florida on vacation from Germany.
Why he decided to risk arrest by going to the United States, the Times aptly put it, "remains a mystery."