NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - Toyota has decided to pay a $1.2 billion financial penalty to resolve criminal charges filed by the federal government, which alleged the company misled consumers over whether its vehicles could accelerate without drivers intending them to.

Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced a criminal wire fraud charge against Toyota and a deferred prosecution agreement that included the company admitting it misled U.S. consumers by making deceptive statements about unintended acceleration issues.

The DOJ says it is the largest financial penalty of its kind ever imposed on an automotive company.

"Rather than promptly disclosing and correcting safety issues about which they were aware, Toyota made misleading public statements to consumers and gave inaccurate facts to Members of Congress," Attorney General Eric Holder said.

The agreement follows the company's settlement of several class action lawsuits nationwide over the same issue that was worth up to $1.4 billion.

Those lawsuits alleged economic loss, not personal injury.

The federal government alleged Wednesday that Toyota made misleading public statements to consumers and concealed the issue from a regulator. That issue was gas pedals getting stuck at partially depressed levels.

Toyota also minimized the danger of another issue - gas pedals becoming entrapped by improperly secured floor mats.

"When, in early 2010, Toyota finally conducted safety recalls to address the unintended acceleration issues it had concealed, Toyota provided to the American public, its U.S. regulator, and the United States Congress an inaccurate timeline of events that made it appear as if Toyota had acted to remedy the sticky pedal problem within approximately 90 days of discovering it," the information filed Wednesday says.

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