Federal prosecutors indicted three Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA, now Stellantis) employees as part of an investigation into alleged emissions cheating. Charges unsealed on April 20, 2021, accuse the defendants of helping rig the emissions control system fitted to the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 used in some models during the 2010s.
Prosecutors claim Emanuele Palma, Sergio Pasini, and Gianluca Sabbioni played a determining role in developing a defeat device that allowed the V6 to obtain certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while polluting too much in normal driving conditions. Jeep and Ram began making the engine available in the Grand Cherokee and the 1500, respectively, in 2014, but the charges state plans to game the EPA started in 2011.
Palma, Pasini, and Sabbioni knowingly mislead federal regulators, the charges claim; they called it “cycle beating,” according to The Detroit News. While the three men were part of FCA’s research and development department, they started the project while working for an Italian supplier named VM Motori, which FCA purchased in 2013.
Pasini and Sabbioni are each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Clean Air Act, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and six counts of violating the Clean Air Act. They could spend several years behind bars if they’re found guilty. Both are currently in their home country of Italy. Palma’s legal troubles are more serious. He was charged with several counts in September 2019, though four wire fraud charges were dropped in November 2020. He lives in Bloomfield Hills, a city located on the far outskirts of Detroit.
Prosecutors claim motorists spent over $4 billion on over 100,000 trucks and SUVs fitted with the non-compliant engine between January 2013 and September 2017. FCA has already agreed to pay $800 million to resolve civil claims from the Justice Department, state officials and customers, though it significantly has not admitted guilt. It stressed that “it did not engage in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat emissions tests.”