Co-Defendant: Coke Worker Proposed Theft

More details arise about would-be corporate espionage case


A former secretary at The Coca-Cola Co. was angry at her employer for not treating her well and hatched a plan to steal trade secrets from the beverage giant to sell them to rival PepsiCo Inc., a co-defendant testified Monday at the woman's conspiracy trial.

Edmund Duhaney, who pleaded guilty in the case and agreed to testify, told jurors that Joya Williams said the documents and product samples - which include information about the company's new coffee-infused drink Coca-Cola Blak - could be worth a lot of money to a competitor.

"She made a statement, 'This happens all the time in corporate America' - that Pepsi, the rival company, would be interested in this," Duhaney said, recalling an April 2006 meeting with Williams and another co-defendant, Ibrahim Dimson.

The three suspects were hoping to get at least $1.5 million for the scheme, according to a taped phone call between Duhaney and Dimson that was played in court. On the call, the two men discuss how to split the money.

"Joya, I just want her to be all right where she keeps her mouth shut," Dimson told Duhaney on the call.

Duhaney testified that Williams was angry at the world's largest beverage maker.

"She felt she wasn't being treated right at her job," Duhaney said. He added, "She let it be known that, 'People think I'm stupid, but I'm not stupid.'"

Duhaney said Williams told him she had been planning the scheme for some time, copying confidential documents little by little.

"She just let me know this was something she had been planning, taking a little at a time, amassing over a period of time," Duhaney testified.

Williams faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the single federal conspiracy charge against her. She has pleaded not guilty. Williams remains free on bond pending the outcome of the trial. Duhaney and Dimson have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Williams, Duhaney and Dimson were indicted in July, accused of stealing new product samples and confidential documents from The Coca-Cola Co. and trying to sell them to Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc.

Coca-Cola has declined to say what product or products the samples relate to. Duhaney testified Monday that at least one product Williams had information about was Coca-Cola Blak, which Coca-Cola launched in January 2006.

The alleged conspiracy was foiled after Pepsi warned Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and an undercover FBI investigation was launched.

Williams was fired from her job as an administrative assistant to Coca-Cola's global brand director after the allegations came to light.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Chartash told jurors during his opening statement Monday that Williams was the one who first approached the two co-defendants in the case about selling Coca-Cola documents and samples of products that hadn't been launched to rival Pepsi. Chartash said the case is about "greed and poor choices."

Among the key evidence against Williams, according to Chartash: a $4,000 deposit Williams made into her bank account, voicemail messages between Williams and the co-defendants and surveillance video of Williams at her desk at Coca-Cola headquarters.

But defense lawyer Janice Singer said the case is really about two ex-cons who duped Williams, stole documents from her and conspired behind her back.

"The evidence will show she was not involved in any way, shape or form in a conspiracy with Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney to steal trade secrets from Coke," Singer said.

Singer referred to Dimson and Duhaney as "two seasoned liars, con men who took advantage of Joya Williams."

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