1st US Criminal Charge Filed in VW Emissions Scandal Engineer James Liang pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud By Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff Posted Sep 9, 2016 1:23 PM CDT 10 comments Comments Volkswagen engineer James Liang leaves court Friday in Detroit after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy in the company’s emissions cheating scandal. (Virginia Lozano/Detroit News via AP)Volkswagen engineer James Liang leaves court Friday in Detroit after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy in the company’s emissions cheating scandal. (Virginia Lozano/Detroit News via AP) (Newser) – The first US criminal charge over the Volkswagen emissions scandal has been filed. Bloomberg reports VW engineer James Liang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud on Friday. Liang, a German citizen, has worked for VW since 1983, first in Germany and then in the US, according to WDIV. He allegedly led the team of engineers that developed a "defeat device" for the company's diesel vehicles. That device allowed VW vehicles to pass emissions tests while emitting nitrogen oxide at rates 40 times what is allowed by the EPA when actually on the road. Authorities say the defeat device was developed by Liang and his team in 2006 in Germany and that Liang was testing the device in California in 2014 and 2015. Liang faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, CNBC reports. As part of his plea agreement, Liang will be cooperating with investigators, something that could reduce his sentence. Liang's attorney says the 62-year-old engineer is "very remorseful for what occurred." Liang is scheduled to be sentenced in January. Volkswagen has agreed to pay $16.5 billion in settlements for cheating emissions tests.