New charges accuse three FCA employees of attempting to cheat emissions tests and defraud customers.
According to federal prosecutors, these employees conspired to fit 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engines with defeat devices as part of a scheme dating back to 2011. According to unsealed case information, Emanuele Parma, Sergio Pasini and Gianluca Sabbioni knowingly misled regulators by “cycle beating”. The devices would calibrate the emissions control system to produce lower greenhouse gas emissions during testing conditions. Then, in normal driving conditions, the engines would emit higher concentrations of pollutants than regulations permitted.
All three named in this case allegedly started the project while working in research and development under Italian engine supplier VM Motori, which Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis NV) bought in 2013.
Palma, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, first faced federal charges back in 2019, but wire fraud charges were dropped last November. Pasini and Sabbioni, both living in Italy, each face one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Clean Air Act, as well as six counts of actively violating the Clean Air Act. If convicted, all three men could face several years’ imprisonment. Prosecutors charge that Palma sent an email congratulating his co-conspirators, saying “great job” in January 2014 after fraudulently passing EPA emissions tests.
Specifically, the defeat devices in question affect the 2014 – 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 pickup equipped with EcoDiesel engines. FCA paid $800 million to settle civil penalties concerning the diesel emissions cheating probe. It paid reached an agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to pay a further $9.5 million to settle allegations it misled investors in 2016, but the company did not admit guilt. At this time, Stellantis made no comment beyond telling The Detroit News they continue to fully cooperate with the Justice Department.