A Fiat Chrysler engineer was charged Tuesday in connection with the company's diesel-emissions scandal, marking an escalation of the criminal investigation into multiple automakers in the United States.
Emanuele Palma, an Italian native working in Michigan, was charged with conspiracy, violations of the Clean Air Act, wire fraud and making false statements in his role in rigging pollution tests on EcoDiesel models sold under the Ram and Jeep brands in the United States, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. The charges make Palma the first employee of an automaker other than Volkswagen Group to be indicted in the now-sweeping investigation. The story did not say what possible penalties or jail time Palma might face.
FCA, which launched its third-generation EcoDiesel V-6 in the U.S. earlier in September, said only that it continues to cooperate with the investigation.
In January, FCA settled a civil suit that was brought in 2017 for employing what the EPA considers to be defeat devices in the engine-control systems of its Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee models equipped with the 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel. FCA stood by its practices, refusing to admit that it did anything wrong.
The settlement involved a $3,000 payout to owners and a software fix for their vehicles, but unlike Volkswagen, the company did not offer to buy back any of the 100,000 vehicles identified in the suit.
This has been a bombshell week for the global investigations into diesel-emissions chicanery committed by multiple automakers. German officials indicted VW Group CEO Herbert Diess for his role in the company's "Dieselgate" scandal Tuesday, and Mercedes-Benz parent-company Daimler is paying close to $1 billion in fines to the German government to settle the investigation into its diesel-emissions manipulation.
More fines and potential charges are expected in the coming months.