ATLANTA -- Three people were charged by federal prosecutors yesterday with stealing confidential information, including a sample of a new drink, from the Coca-Cola Co. and trying to sell it to rival PepsiCo Inc.
The suspects include a Coke executive's administrative assistant, Joya Williams, who is accused of rifling through corporate files and stuffing documents and a new Coke product into a personal bag.
The company confirmed that the documents were valid and highly confidential.
Williams, 41, of Norcross, Ga., and 30-year-old Ibrahim Dimson of New York and 43-year-old Edmund Duhaney of Decatur, Ga., were arrested on charges of wire fraud and unlawfully stealing and selling Coke trade secrets, federal prosecutors said.
They are expected to appear before a federal magistrate judge today in Atlanta, where Coca-Cola is based.
Pepsi spokesman Dave DeCecco said his company did what any responsible company would do by 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."
Coke's chief executive, Neville Isdell, said in a memo to employees 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.