Former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn was charged with defrauding the U.S. in a Michigan federal court Thursday for his role in the widespread VW diesel emissions scandal.

The charges were first reported by Reuters.

According to the report, the charges were filed secretly in March and made public Thursday.

Winterkorn was CEO of Volkswagen when the automaker admitted it had cheated U.S. emissions tests and its cars illegally polluted up to 40 times more than allowed by federal law. The allegations and eventual admission led to billions erased from the company's coffers, Winterkorn's ouster, a worldwide scandal, and one conviction of a VW executive in the U.S. so far.

A spokeswoman for VW chose not to respond to our request for a comment on the charges.

The scandal unveiled multiple instances of dubious behavior by VW engineers and executives, including doctored tests involving monkeys in a lab, bogus and nonsensical engineering material passed off to federal investigators, and delayed responses to irregularities in testing.

Winterkorn is the highest-ranking VW official to be charged in the U.S. for his role in the cover-up. Five other VW executives have been indicted in the U.S.: Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, and Jürgen Pete, although it's unlikely that they'll face trial.

Germany typically does not extradite its citizens for trials outside of the European Union.

More on this story as it develops.