The head of German automaker Volkswagen’s engineering and environment office pleaded guilty Friday in a U.S. court to charges connected to an emissions scandal involving the company.
Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges that could land him in prison for up to seven years. He will be forced to pay a fine of between $40,000 and $400,000 for his role in a scheme, dubbed Dieselgate, to mislead U.S. environmental regulators.
In March, the company admitted to using software to fool regulators into believing Volkswagen cars complied with U.S. emissions standards. It was ordered to pay $4.3 billion in penalties and another $17.5 billion in civil settlements.
The government said diesel cars that Volkswagen claimed were clean were, in fact, releasing 40 times more nitrogen oxide emissions than is allowed by law.
Schmidt is the second Volkswagen employee to plead guilty to charges related to the scandal. Last year, company engineer James Liang admitted to helping design the devices used to beat emissions tests. The FBI now cites him as a cooperating witness.
Most Volkswagen employees charged in the scheme are in Germany and can’t be prosecuted by U.S. authorities. The company still faces legal issues in countries across the globe and has put aside more than $24 billion to handle costs related to the scandal.