Judge Orders Voice Samples Taken in Coca-Cola Trade Secrets Case

A judge on Monday ordered three people charged in the theft of trade secrets from The Coca-Cola Co. (KO) to turn over voice samples to allow the government to try to match them with recorded telephone conversations that are part of the investigation.

Defense lawyers for the defendants did not object to the prosecution request during a brief hearing in federal court in Atlanta.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gerrilyn G. Brill said arrangements will be made for former Coke secretary Joya Williams and co-defendants Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney to provide the voice samples. The three were not in court for the hearing.

Also Monday, a prosecutor indicated that statements the three defendants made to investigators after their July 5 arrest will be used against them at trial. Defense lawyers are seeking to suppress the statements. No trial date has been set.

Williams, Dimson and Duhaney were indicted July 11 on a federal conspiracy charge that accuses them of stealing new product samples and confidential documents from Coke and trying to sell them to Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc. (PEP). The three have pleaded not guilty.

The government says it has numerous digital recordings of conversations between the defendants. In the majority of the telephone calls recorded, the speakers do not identify themselves by their true and full name, which is why the government says it needs samples of the suspects' voices for comparison.

The alleged crime was foiled after Pepsi turned over to Coca-Cola a letter Pepsi had received in May from a man the FBI later identified as Dimson, offering to sell Coke trade secrets to "the highest bidder," the indictment says.

The prosecution says a box containing two undisclosed Coca-Cola product samples and other confidential company documents were found in Duhaney's home during a search on July 5, the day all three were arrested and the same day a $1.5 million transaction was to occur.

Coke has declined to say what product or products the samples relate to.

Williams, who has since been fired as an administrative assistant for Coke's global brand director at its Atlanta headquarters, allegedly took the information from the company and gave it to Dimson and Duhaney.

Williams' lawyer, Janice Singer, filed a motion Friday asking a federal judge to suppress evidence seized from her client's Norcross, Ga., home, alleging that FBI agents provided insufficient probable cause in obtaining a warrant to search the home.

An inventory of items seized from the home July 5 shows agents removed Coca-Cola and Fanta documents and Coca-Cola memos and e-mail. Agents also removed a $1,291 check made payable to a "Javier F. Sanchez." The name of Williams' former boss at Coke is Javier Sanchez Lamelas. It's not clear if the two are the same, and Coke officials and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office have declined to say.

But Singer said outside court Monday that it would not have been unusual for her client to deposit checks for her boss while she worked at Coke. She also said her client had no intention of using the check for herself.