LAWRENCEVILLE - A Norcross woman employed by Coca-Cola was arrested along with two other men Wednesday for allegedly trying to peddle the giant beverage company's trade secrets to rival PepsiCo.
Joya Williams, 41, of Norcross, 30-year-old Ibrahim Dimson of New York and 43-year-old Edmund Duhaney of Decatur were arrested on charges of wire fraud and stealing and selling Coke trade secrets, federal prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney David Nahmias lauded PepsiCo Wednesday for notifying Coca-Cola when the trio contacted them requesting money in exchange for highly classified trade secrets.
"We commend PepsiCo's good corporate citizenship, the Coca-Cola Company's immediate referral to law enforcement and subsequent cooperation, and the FBI's solid investigation in making this case," Nahmias 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. ''We're pleased the authorities and the FBI have identified the people responsible for this.''
According to federal authorities, on May 19 PepsiCo provided to officials at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta a copy of a letter that had been mailed to their office in Purchase, N.Y., in an official Coca-Cola business envelope.
Postmarked from the Bronx, N.Y., the letter was from an individual identifying himself as "Dirk," who claimed to be employed at a high level with Coca-Cola. Dirk offered "very detailed and confidential information," according to Patrick Crosby, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta.
Coca-Cola immediately contacted the FBI, and an undercover investigation was launched. Dirk was identified as Ibrahim Dimson, unknown age, of Bronx, N.Y., Crosby said. However, phone records and other evidence showed the source of the information was 41-year-old Joya Williams of Norcross, an executive administrative assistant at Coke in Atlanta.
Williams allegedly stole confidential documents and a liquid product sample from her office and provided them to Dimson, who served as a go-between. As the investigation progressed, Dimson sent an FBI undercover agent 14 pages of Coca-Cola logo-marked "Classified - Confidential" and "Classified - Highly Restricted" documents. The company confirmed the documents were valid and highly confidential.
Almost immediately, "Dirk" requested $10,000 for the documents he sent as proof. His e-mail stated "I must see some type of seriousness ... if I'm to maintain the faith to continue with you guys, or if I need to look towards another entity that will be interested in a relationship with me."
"Dirk" reportedly said he was capable of obtaining more information including actual products and packaging upon request that "no eye has seen outside of maybe five top execs."
Later ''Dirk'' produced other documents that Coca-Cola again confirmed were valid trade secrets of Coca-Cola and highly confidential. He also agreed to be paid $75,000 for the purchase of a top-secret product sample from a new Coca-Cola project, prosecutors said.
Then on June 27, an undercover FBI agent offered to buy other trade secrets for $1.5 million from ''Dirk.'' The same day a bank account was opened under the names of Edmund 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, adding that Coca-Cola later verified the sample was genuine and is in fact 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.
Coke's chief executive, Neville Isdell, said in a memo to employees Wednesday that the company is cooperating with federal authorities.
''Sadly, today's arrests include an individual within our company,'' Isdell wrote. ''While this breach of trust is difficult for all of us to accept, it underscores the responsibility we each have to be vigilant in protecting our trade secrets. Information is the lifeblood of the company.''
He said Coke will review its information protection policies, procedures and practices to make sure it safeguards intellectual property.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.