Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas Inc. has pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge and violating the Clean Air Act and was sentenced to pay a $1.95-million criminal fine,  the U.S. Dept. of Justice says.

At issue in the case were machinery that the company imported to the U.S. whose diesel engines didn’t comply with the Clean Air statute’s standards, according to federal officials.

In announcing the Nov. 14 plea and sentence in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the department said that while a phase-in program was in effect for federal air emissions standards, “Hyundai opted to participate in a transition program that allowed it to import limited numbers of engines not in compliance with the new standards.”

According to DOJ, Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas was a subsidiary of South Korea-based Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. and imports equipment to the U.S., which it sells to dealers

Hyundai Construction Equipment America, based in Norcross, Ga., was required to file reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stating the total number of its imported engines that didn’t comply with the federal standards.

But DOJ said, “Hyundai’s imports of noncompliant engines substantially exceeded its allowance.”

Despite advice from a consultant that it didn’t comply with the standards and could face a large penalty, “Hyundai continued to import the noncompliant engines and its employees conspired to lie to the EPA and to impede EPA’s ability to enforce emissions standards,” Justice said.

Susan Bodine, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, said in a statement that the Hyundai unit "tried to increase its profits by illegally importing diesel engines that did not comply with U.S. Clean Air Act regulations."

A Hyundai Construction Equipment of America employee to whom ENR was referred said the company had no comment at this time.

DOJ didn’t specify which types of Hyundai equipment were at issue in the case.