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Rivals cooperate to protect trade secrets

By Harry R. Weber

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Coca-Cola and Pepsi are usually bitter enemies, but when PepsiCo Inc. got a letter offering to sell Coke trade secrets, it went straight to its corporate rival.

Six weeks later, three people face federal charges of stealing confidential information, including a sample of a new drink, from The Coca-Cola Co. and trying to sell it to PepsiCo Inc.

"Competition can sometimes be fierce, but also must be fair and legal," Pepsi spokesman Dave DeCecco said.

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The suspects arrested Wednesday -- the day a $1.5 million transaction was to occur -- include a Coke executive's administrative assistant, Joya Williams, who is accused of riffling through corporate files and 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., were charged with wire fraud and unlawfully stealing and selling Coke trade secrets, federal prosecutors said.

They were expected to appear before a federal magistrate judge today in Atlanta, where Coca-Cola is based.

According to prosecutors, on May 19, Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo provided Coke with a copy of a letter mailed to PepsiCo in an official Coca-Cola business envelope. The letter was from an individual identifying himself as "Dirk," who claimed to be employed at a high level with Coca-Cola and offered "very detailed and confidential information." "Dirk" later was identified as Dimson, the FBI said.

Coca-Cola immediately contacted the FBI, and an undercover FBI investigation began.

Prosecutors said Williams was the source of the information Dimson offered to provide Pepsi.

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