Former VW engineer Liang sentenced to 40 months, $200,000 fine

DETROIT — A former Volkswagen AG engineer who cooperated with investigators in the automaker's global diesel emissions scandal was sentenced to 40 months in a federal prison and a $200,000 fine for his role in the conspiracy.

James Liang, 63, a native of Indonesia but a citizen of Germany, was sentenced in U.S. District Court here on Friday before Judge Sean Cox.

Liang, a diesel expert who's been with VW for more than 30 years, aided prosecutors as they built their case against higher-level VW executives for their alleged roles in a global conspiracy to cheat on diesel emissions. Prosecutors said Liang "provided an insider's perspective of a company that had lost its ethical moorings in pursuit of increased market share and corporate profits."

Liang's attorney, David Nixon, had asked the court to impose a sentence as low as 21 months of house arrest, while prosecutors had sought three years of prison — two years less than the maximum five-year sentence for the conspiracy charge.

But Cox said that, despite Liang's cooperation with authorities, he had been a key enabler of VW's ability to cheat diesel emissons standards, and that Liang had been "too loyal" to his lifelong employer, who was paying his rent on a 3,600-square-foot, five-bedroom home in an exclusive area of Southern California. He also said he wanted to impose a sentence that would be a message to other employees in the industry who might be asked by their employers to do illegal deeds.

"It seems to me that you certainly didn't want to walk away from this lifestyle in Southern California, with this lifestyle and this income … which would have been the right thing to do," Cox said. "In my mind, this is a serious crime, and it involves a massive fraud on the American consumer, which you knew, and you played a role in."

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