A former Fiat Chrysler manager was indicted Tuesday for his role in a scheme to cheat on emissions tests with the automaker’s diesel vehicles.
Emanuele Palma, 40, an Italian citizen and resident of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is the first person to face criminal charges arising from the scandal.
Mr. Palma faces a slew of charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States, Clean Air Act violations, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon.
Prosecutors say Mr. Palma, senior manager of diesel driveability and emissions at Fiat Chrysler, misled regulators about engine emissions from 104,000 diesel vehicles.
They say Mr. Palma and unidentified co-conspirators installed software in Ram 1500 pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees produced between 2014 and 2016 to skirt emissions tests. The software manipulated the autos’ emissions during testing so that the vehicles looked as if they were releasing fewer emissions than they actually did on the road.
The indictment also says in June 2016, Mr. Palma and the co-conspirators “made and caused others to make false and misleading representation” to federal regulators so the cars could be sold in the United States.
“Cheating government regulators, customers, and the public for increased sales and compensation will be prosecuted by the Department of Justice to the fullest extent of the law,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Fiat Chrysler said in a statement it will cooperate with investigators
“We will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities as we have throughout this issue,” the statement said.
The company this year agreed to pay more than $800 million to civil penalties arising from the scandal. That included more than $400 million it paid to the Justice Department in January to settle a civil lawsuit.
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