WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former employee of Suzuki Motor Corp's U.S. operations pleaded guilty on Friday to filing a false report and violating the Clean Air Act over excess emissions in more than 23,000 2012 model year motorcycles, court documents showed.
The case is the latest in a series of civil and criminal actions the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department have pursued to crack down on automakers that cheat on pollution tests in an attempt to avoid paying the costs of compliance.
The Justice Department said Wayne Powell, while serving as a government relations analyst based at Suzuki Motor's U.S. headquarters in Brea, California, submitted a report to the Environmental Protection Agency in September 2013 that said the automaker had credits to offset any excess tailpipe emissions from its motorcycles. The EPA informed Powell that the company did not have any banked credits, however.
Powell submitted a second report in 2014 that said Suzuki's motorcycles did not exceed emissions limits and said he had corrected some mistakes due to a computer software problem. But the Justice Department said he had falsified the numbers in his report.
Under a plea agreement made public Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, Powell faces up to two years in prison.Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> in September 2015 admitted using sophisticated secret software in its cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests and pleaded guilty in March in a U.S. court to three felonies in connection with the scandal. Last week, the government charged a former Audi manager with directing employees at the company, a division of Volkswagen, to design software to cheat U.S. emissions tests in thousands of Audi diesel cars and previously charged seven other current and former VW employees. In May, the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit on accusing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of illegally using software to bypass emission controls in 104,000 U.S.diesel vehicles sold since 2014.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown)