James Liang, a veteran Volkswagen engineer, pled guilty Friday to conspiring to defraud the American public about its vehicle emissions, Bloomberg reports. It is the first criminal charge in the ongoing Dieselgate scandal that has loomed over the German company since last September.
Liang entered his plea in Detroit federal court on Friday and is cooperating with the investigation, Bloomberg notes. This could mean more resignations for a company that has already seen its CEO and chief US executive step down in the wake of the scandal.
Volkswagen is in negotiations with the Department of Justice to settle the case before the end of the year, but federal prosecutors said they expect to file additional criminal charges before then. Liang appears to be the first of those charged with criminal negligence in the case. Liang, a 25-year veteran of the company, was the head of Volkswagen’s Diesel Competence unit in the US.
The company has already agreed to a pay the federal government $14.7 billion and remove 482,000 emissions-cheating diesel cars off the roads. But it’s likely that the various criminal charges and civil lawsuits and settlements will continue for quite some time, costing the German automaker potentially tens of billions of dollars.