A former Volkswagen executive has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States over the company's emissions-cheating scandal.
Oliver Schmidt, who was the general manager of the engineering and environmental office for VW of America, made a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Miami on Monday following his arrest Saturday in Florida. He did not enter a plea.
Schmidt, a German resident, was also charged with wire fraud and for violating the Clean Air Act.
Settlement reportedly is near
Schmidt is the second person to be arrested as part of the ongoing federal investigation into VW, which has admitted that it installed software on as many as 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide to circumvent emission tests.
The software allowed the vehicles to turn pollution controls on during emission tests and to turn them off during actual driving. Those vehicles emitted up to 40 times the legally allowable pollution levels.
U.S. prosecutors accuse Schmidt of lying to regulators who were investigating the discrepancies in emissions.
Volkswagen said in a statement Monday that it is cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department in the investigation. U.S. media is reporting the company is close to agreeing to a multi-billion-dollar fine to settle the criminal case.
Another U.S. VW employee, James Liang, was charged in September with misleading regulators about the diesel emissions. He pled guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.
Two new SUVs on display at auto show
The news of the latest charges come as VW is rolling out two new sport utility vehicles at the Detroit auto show. Hinrich Woebcken, VW's chief executive of the North America region, told reporters at the auto show Monday that the company was “surprised” by the criminal charges.
He said VW is on a “good path to get things straight.”
Many of VW's top management left the company following the scandal, including CEO Martin Winterkorn.