Coke Secrets Case Likened To Spy Novel

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CBS/AP
A secretary accused of helping two men steal trade secrets from The Coca-Cola Co. and trying to sell them to rival PepsiCo Inc. was ordered released on bond Thursday in a blockbuster case her lawyer likened to "a spy novel."

Joya Williams' co-defendants, a pair of ex-cons who served time together at the same federal prison in Alabama, were detained pending a preliminary hearing for all three on Tuesday. Their attorneys would not say how Williams knew the two men.

Williams, who worked as an administrative assistant for a Coke executive at the company's corporate headquarters in Atlanta, is accused of rifling through corporate files and stuffing documents and a new Coca-Cola product into a personal bag. She has since been fired, the judge said during Thursday's hearing.

The arrests took place Wednesday — the day a $1.5 million transaction was to occur — when the Feds set up a sting. An undercover agent posing as a Pepsi spy says one of the suspected Coke thieves handed him an Armani bag containing the cola sample and documents, in exchange for a Girl Scout cookie box stuffed with cash, CBS News correspondent Jim Acosta reports.

Williams' lawyer, Wanda Jackson, said outside the federal courthouse that the defense needs to see the product sample her client allegedly stole from Coke to be able to defend her properly. Jackson also suggested the product may not be as secret as Coke has suggested.

"It does sound like something out of a spy novel or movie," Jackson told reporters outside the courthouse. "Why would they leave a product in an office that was easily accessible? What was in it."

Coke hasn't said. Jackson said the defense should be able to test the product.

"The whole thing belies common sense," she said of the accusations.

Don Samuel, a lawyer for co-defendant Edmund Duhaney, said it was his client who was duped.

"I might more accurately characterize it as the two stooges — and my innocent client unwittingly along for the ride — meet Coke," Samuel said. "I think that getting clearance to work on this case might rival the national security clearance I need to get for a terrorism case."

Williams, Duhaney and Ibrahim Dimson were arrested Wednesday — the day a $1.5 million transaction was to occur. They are charged with stealing confidential information, including a sample of a new drink, from Coke and trying to sell it to Pepsi.

The three suspects face charges of wire fraud and unlawfully stealing and selling Coke trade secrets.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Feldman also signed a protective order that prevents the defendants from revealing any secrets they know about the company to anyone other than their lawyers.

But industry analyst John Sicher told Acosta that Pepsi doesn't need spies to learn Coke's formulas.

"You could very easily today analyze these beverages find out what the formula is," Sicher said.

A Coke lawyer, Stephen Cowen, told Feldman he also may seek to bar certain documents and other information from being turned over to the defense during discovery.

Williams' father, George Williams, told reporters he is standing by his daughter.

"Up until this point, I believe she left each and every one of her other jobs in good standing," George Williams said, adding that his daughter was excited to land a job at Coca-Cola four or five years ago.

As the suspects appeared in court, more details about their backgrounds emerged.

At the time of the alleged theft, Joya Williams, 41, of Norcross, Ga., had been working for a senior Coke manager, Javier Sanchez Lamelas, who is a global brand director for the beverage giant, the company said. She doesn't have a criminal record, according to her attorney.