— Volkswagen has been sentenced in a federal court to three years probation after the automaker pleaded guilty in March 2017 for conspiracy to defraud U.S. customers and federal regulators and for violating the Clean Air Act by intentionally lying to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In addition, the court agreed to accept the $4.3 billion dollar settlement amount that was first announced in January.
As part of the sentence, Volkswagen was nailed with felony counts for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and consumers, engaging in wire fraud, violating the federal Clean Air Act, obstruction of justice and for importing merchandise by means of false statements.
The obstruction of justice charge stems from destroying thousands of documents in an effort to cover up the 10-year-old scheme.
VW admits it spent at least 10 years manufacturing and selling "clean diesel" cars in the U.S. that were equipped with illegal software that altered nitrogen oxide emissions. The "defeat devices" were used in the cars because engineers couldn't figure out how to make the emissions systems legal under U.S. standards.
By using the illegal software, about 590,000 Audi, Porsche and VW vehicles passed official emissions testing and once back on the roads under normal driving conditions, the vehicles emitted nitrogen oxides up to 40 times above the legal limit.
In addition to the penalty and probation, Volkswagen will get a babysitter during the three-year probation period. Former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Larry D. Thompson will step in to monitor the automaker by using a team of experienced experts in corporate monitoring.
Volkswagen knew that fighting the $4.3 billion in penalties wouldn't be a good idea because legally, the government could have hit the automaker with penalties of more than $30 billion.
Although VW tried to resolve the problems quickly once it admitted the cars were illegal, it took a while for the automaker to admit guilt. If not for researchers at West Virginia University finding problems with the emissions systems, it's likely VW would still be scheming consumers.
After university researchers informed the EPA and the California Air Resources Board about the discrepancies between real-world emissions levels and testing levels, Volkswagen continued to deny the vehicles had been illegally altered to pass emissions tests.
A current investigation seeks to determine just what the EPA was doing the 10 years Volkswagen was making a fortune by illegally polluting the atmosphere.
Some VW owners weren't happy with the ruling, especially attorneys representing some owners who wanted to sue the automaker based on criminal charges. But the judge overruled those objections and said the agreement allows affected owners to receive monetary compensation in addition to a buyback of the vehicles.
The massive fraud case was investigated by the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).