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Two plead guilty in Coca-Cola plot

The men conspired to steal trade secrets from the soft-drink maker. A former secretary at the company awaits trial.

October 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

ATLANTA — Two men accused of plotting with a secretary at Coca-Cola Co. to steal trade secrets from the world's biggest soft-drink maker and trying to sell them to archrival PepsiCo Inc. each pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy.

Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney each could face as much as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they are sentenced Jan. 29.

Former Coca-Cola secretary Joya Williams is scheduled to stand trial starting the week of Nov. 13.

"She is absolutely not pleading," Williams' attorney, Janice Singer, said.

During the plea hearing in federal court, Duhaney told the judge that Williams, a longtime friend, contacted him and wanted to "make things happen." Dimson testified that Duhaney then contacted him to try to broker a deal with Pepsi.

Duhaney entered his plea as part of a deal with prosecutors and is likely to cooperate if the Williams case goes to trial, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Bjay Pak.

In the plea deal, the government agreed to push for a lighter sentence in exchange for Duhaney's assistance, though Pak pointed out that Duhaney could still get the maximum sentence.

Duhaney's attorney, Don Samuel, called his client a "bit player who was very briefly involved as a go-between."

Dimson's attorney, Anna Blitz, did not comment on why her client had decided to plead guilty.

Williams, Dimson and Duhaney were indicted July 11 on federal conspiracy charges. The three were accused of stealing new-product samples and confidential documents from Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and trying to sell them to PepsiCo's Pepsi unit, which is second in U.S. soft-drink sales to Coca-Cola.

The alleged plans were foiled after Pepsi, based in Purchase, N.Y., warned Coca-Cola.

The prosecution said a box containing two undisclosed Coca-Cola product samples and other confidential company documents was found in Duhaney's home during a search July 5, the day all three were arrested and the same day a supposed $1.5-million transaction was to occur. Documents were also found in Williams' home.

Fourteen pages of Coke's confidential "marketing playbook" were also found, Pak said.

Coke has declined to reveal what product or products were linked to the samples.

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