US seeks prison sentence for VW engineer in diesel scandal

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FILE PHOTO: A Volkswagen logo is pictured at Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo (Copyright Reuters 2017)

U.S. prosecutors will seek a three-year prison sentence on Friday for a Volkswagen engineer who had a key role in the company's diesel emissions scandal.

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Robert Liang, 63, was one of two VW employees to plead guilty in the scheme, although others charged in the case are in Germany and out of reach. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in federal court in Detroit.

Prosecutors said Liang was aware that VW used software to cheat U.S. emission rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles. His lawyer said he's not "greedy or immoral" but followed orders to keep his job and support his family.

Liang has asked the judge to consider a sentence of probation and 1,500 hours of community service. The government said Liang wasn't the mastermind but took part in "pivotal events."

Liang last year pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. He agreed to cooperate with investigators in the U.S. and Germany.

Volkswagen and U.S. environmental regulators announced agreement last month on a plan for the automaker to fix most of the diesel cars involved in the emissions cheating scandal.

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Volkswagen has admitted that the cars were sold with illegal software programmed to turn on emissions controls during government lab tests and turn them off while on the road. Investigators determined that the cars emitted more than 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems in humans.

The company got away with the scheme for seven years until independent researchers reported it to government regulators.

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