Sunday, July 15, 2018
Business

VW engineer pleads guilty in emissions case, will cooperate

DETROIT — A Volkswagen engineer has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in the company's emissions cheating scandal, advancing a criminal investigation by agreeing to testify against others.

James Robert Liang, 62, of Newbury Park, Calif., entered the plea Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government through wire fraud.

Liang is the first person to enter a plea in the case, and his cooperation is a major breakthrough in the Justice Department's probe into the scandal. Government documents say others were involved and point to multiple emails in German that likely came from VW employees in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Volkswagen has admitted to installing software on about 500,000 2-liter diesel engines in VW and Audi models in the United States that turned pollution controls on during government tests and turned them off while on the road. The Environmental Protection Agency found that the cars emitted up to 40 times the legal limit for nitrogen oxide, which can cause human respiratory problems.

Liang, who started working for VW in 1983 in Germany and also worked in the United States, was indicted in June on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and another count of violating the Clean Air Act. According to a plea agreement unsealed Friday, Liang admitted that he and others planned software known as a defeat device that could cheat U.S. emissions tests after recognizing that a diesel engine they were designing could not meet customer expectations and stricter emissions standards. Using the defeat device enabled VW to obtain a certificate from the Environmental Protection Agency needed to sell the cars in the states.

Liang pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge. He will be sentenced Jan. 11. The judge said that guidelines call for Liang to serve five years in prison. He also could be fined up to $250,000.

Volkswagen wouldn't comment on the plea, but said Friday that it continues to cooperate in the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow told the judge that two or more of Liang's colleagues also had knowledge of the conspiracy.

According to the indictment, Liang and his co-conspirators were tasked with designing new diesel engines for the U.S. market that complied with stricter emissions standards for nitrogen oxide emissions that went into effect in 2007.

Prosecutors say Liang and other engineers realized they could not design a diesel vehicle that met the stricter U.S. emission standards and performed well enough to satisfy customers. So they began work on defeat device software that would cheat on the tests, the indictment says.

Within VW, the cheating software was referred to as "cycle beating," or "emissions tight" mode, among other terms, according to the indictment.

The scheme began to unravel in 2014 when a nonprofit group discovered that the cars polluted too much in real-world driving conditions. But prosecutors say that Liang and his VW colleagues still conspired to hide the existence of the defeat devices.

Comments
This Florida burger joint is one of the 10 best in America, travel website says

This Florida burger joint is one of the 10 best in America, travel website says

A 2½-hour drive south could land Tampa residents at one of America’s best burger joints, according the review and travel website TripAdvisor.com.The website released a list of the "10 Most Delectable Burger Joints" in America on Wednesday, placing Na...
Published: 07/14/18
SunPass is a mess. Florida could have seen it coming.

SunPass is a mess. Florida could have seen it coming.

Florida’s SunPass electronic tolling system is a mess. The vendor who runs the system has a backlog of unprocessed charges now running into the millions, a total accumulated since it stopped processing tolls on June 1.Earlier this week, after it bega...
Published: 07/13/18
Updated: 07/14/18
Florida’s economy passes $1 trillion mark Friday

Florida’s economy passes $1 trillion mark Friday

Florida may seem like another country sometimes with its wacky "Florida man" stories and uniquely-Florida crimes, but it’s like another country in a new way as of today — its economic clout. Florida’s economy topped $1 trillion Friday, meaning that i...
Published: 07/13/18
Free, eco-friendly taxi service is coming to downtown St. Petersburg this August

Free, eco-friendly taxi service is coming to downtown St. Petersburg this August

ST. PETERSBURG — As downtowns grow — like St. Petersburg’s burgeoning central city — so does traffic, carbon emission and the amount of money spent on gas.The Nickel Ride, a free, eco-friendly taxi service, is looking to change that, and the next cit...
Published: 07/13/18
So far, so good. Doctors at Tampa General find success with a device that fights often-fatal aneurysms

So far, so good. Doctors at Tampa General find success with a device that fights often-fatal aneurysms

TAMPA — Dr. Murray Shames holds a flexible, lightweight tube as wide as two garden hoses pushed together in his office at Tampa General Hospital. The polyester tube, and its thinner fastening branches with metal wiring, will be attached inside someon...
Published: 07/13/18
Is a bike lane backlash brewing over St. Pete’s MLK Jr. Street N?

Is a bike lane backlash brewing over St. Pete’s MLK Jr. Street N?

ST. PETERSBURG — In the next month, the city is poised to launch one of the most ambitious bike lane projects in the Tampa Bay area.But some local business owners want to stop construction of those bike lanes along two miles of one of the city’s busi...
Published: 07/13/18
Study says Tampa has some of the highest overdraft and banking fees nationwide

Study says Tampa has some of the highest overdraft and banking fees nationwide

Florida, including Tampa Bay, has some of the highest bank fees in the country, according to a recent study by bank comparison site DepositAccounts.The website broke down overdraft fees, third-party ATM fees and monthly service fees to rank the 50 bi...
Published: 07/13/18

Miss out on Build-A-Bear’s Pay Your Age deal? Chuck E. Cheese has a Friday solution

Did you and your kids miss out on pay-your-age Build-A-Bear promotion? Perhaps they’d rather play some video games over a slice of pizza.In a promotion that some may say smacks a bit of piling on, Chuck E. Cheese announced an All You Can Play promoti...
Published: 07/13/18
Brink: Extending the Suncoast Parkway has gone from boondoggle to folly

Brink: Extending the Suncoast Parkway has gone from boondoggle to folly

In a few short weeks, the Suncoast 2 toll road project has gone from boondoggle to folly.State officials pitched the 13-mile extension of the Suncoast Parkway as a step toward eventually linking the road to Interstate 75 near Ocala via a project dubb...
Published: 07/13/18
Nissan recalls about 105K cars to replace Takata air bags

Nissan recalls about 105K cars to replace Takata air bags

Associated PressDETROIT — Nissan is recalling nearly 105,000 small cars to replace Takata passenger air bag inflators that can explode and hurl shrapnel at drivers and passengers. Included are the 2011 Versa sedan and the 2011 and 2012 Versa hatchbac...
Published: 07/13/18