A former Coca-Cola secretary 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 Pepsi, 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.”
Singer said Duhaney, who will be a key witness against Williams, cut a deal with the government in hopes of a lesser sentence. Singer said that’s Duhaney’s “whole motive in this case.”
Dimson and Duhaney served prison terms at the same time at a federal penitentiary in Montgomery, Ala. Duhaney served nearly five years of a seven-year sentence on a cocaine charge before being released in 2005; Dimson served less than one year of a two-year sentence on a bank fraud charge before his release in 2004.
Williams does not have a criminal record, another attorney who previously represented her has said.
Asked by a government lawyer Monday why he was testifying, Duhaney said, “I’m hoping for the truth to get out.”
FBI agent Chad Hunt testified Monday that a man identifying himself as “Dirk” sent a letter in early May 2006 to Antonio J. Lucio, senior vice president of Insights and Innovation for PepsiCo.
In the letter, “Dirk,” who the FBI has identified as Dimson, said he had detailed information about Coca-Cola’s marketing plans for the next four years and was willing to sell it to the “highest bidder.” He said the information could help Pepsi win the “cola wars.”
Specifically, “Dirk” said he had information on Coca-Cola’s plans for marketing its new coffee-infused drink, Coca-Cola Blak.
The lightly carbonated, mid-calorie beverage, is designed to appeal to adult consumers. The drink includes real coffee and has a coffee-like froth when poured, Coke has said.
“What if you knew the markets they were going to move into and out of ... and beat them to the punch,” “Dirk” said in the letter to Pepsi, which Hunt read to the jury.
Hunt said the letter left a telephone number, which the FBI later tapped.
Singer said her client was messing up at work and decided to make copies of every document she dealt with and take them home to protect herself in case her boss accused her of not doing her job.
Singer said Williams never intended to give the materials to Dimson and Duhaney, or anyone else.
Jury selection began last Tuesday. The trial is expected to last another week or two.