Three people have been arrested and charged with stealing confidential information about drink recipes from Coca-Cola Co. and trying to sell it to rival PepsiCo Inc., federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
The suspects include an executive administrative assistant at Atlanta-based Coke, Joya Williams, who is accused of stuffing documents and a new Coca-Cola product into a personal bag.
Williams, 41, of Norcross, Ga., 30-year-old Ibrahim Dimson of New York and 43-year-old Edmund Duhaney of Decatur, Ga., are charged with wire fraud and unlawfully stealing and selling Coke trade secrets, federal prosecutors said.
Pepsi spokesman Dave DeCecco said his company did what any responsible company would do in cooperating with Coke and the investigation.
"Competition can sometimes be fierce but also must be fair and legal," DeCecco said.
According to prosecutors, Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo on May 19 provided Coke with a copy of a letter mailed to PepsiCo in an official Coca-Cola business envelope. The letter, postmarked from the Bronx borough in New York, was from an individual identifying himself as "Dirk" who claimed to have a high-level job at Coca-Cola and offered "very detailed and confidential information." "Dirk" was later identified as Dimson, the FBI says.
Coca-Cola immediately contacted the FBI, and an undercover FBI investigation began.
Prosecutors say Williams was the source of the information that Dimson offered to provide Pepsi. They say "Dirk" gave an FBI undercover agent 14 pages of Coca-Cola documents marked classified and confidential. The company confirmed that the documents were confidential and considered trade secrets.
"Dirk" wanted $10,000 for the documents, prosecutors say.
Later, "Dirk" produced other documents that Coca-Cola confirmed were valid trade secrets of the company and highly confidential. He also agreed to be paid $75,000 for a confidential product sample from a new Coca Cola project, prosecutors said.
On June 27, an undercover FBI agent offered to buy other secrets from "Dirk" for $1.5 million. That day, a bank account was opened under the names of Duhaney and Dimson, and the address used on the account was that of Duhaney's Decatur residence, prosecutors said.
Video surveillance showed Williams at her desk at Coke headquarters going through multiple files looking for documents and stuffing them into bags. She also was observed holding a liquid container with a white label, which resembled the description of a new Coca-Cola product sample, before placing it into her personal bag, prosecutors say. Coca-Cola later verified the sample was of a product being developed by the company.
Dimson, Williams and Duhaney were arrested in Atlanta on Wednesday, the day the $1.5-million deal was to take place, prosecutors say.
The three could not be reached for comment.