VW exec arrested over diesel scheme

DETROIT (AP) — The Volkswagen executive who once was in charge of complying with U.S. emissions regulations was arrested during the weekend in Florida and accused of deceiving federal regulators about the use of special software that cheated on emissions tests.

Oliver Schmidt, who was general manager of the engineering and environmental office for VW of America, was charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and wire fraud.

Schmidt, 48, a resident of Germany, is the second VW employee to be arrested as part of an ongoing federal investigation into VW, which has admitted that it programmed diesel-powered vehicles to turn pollution controls on during tests and to turn them off in real-world driving.

The scandal has cost VW sales and has tarnished its brand worldwide.

He was arrested during the weekend in Florida and faces an initial hearing in Miami Monday afternoon. After that he likely will be taken to Detroit, where the Justice Department investigation is based, to face arraignment at a later date.

It wasn’t immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

The complaint, dated Dec. 30, says Schmidt in 2015 misled regulators who asked why Volkswagen vehicles emitted higher emissions on the road than during tests. Schmidt “offered reasons for the discrepancy” other than the fact that the company was cheating on emissions tests through illegally installed software on its diesel vehicles, according to court documents.

The complaint says Schmidt and other VW executives conspired to violate the Clean Air Act by making false representations about the environmental quality of their cars.

Tests commissioned by the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation in 2014 found that certain Volkswagen models with diesel engines emitted more than the allowable limit of pollutants.

More than a year later, Volkswagen admitted to installing the software on about 500,000 2-liter diesel engines in VW and Audi models in the U.S. Later the company said some 3-liter diesels also cheated.

After that study, Schmidt, in an apparent reference to VW’s compliance with emissions, wrote a colleague to say, “It should first be decided whether we are honest. If we are not honest, everything stays as it is.”