ATLANTA - The two men accused of plotting with a secretary at Coca-Cola Co. to steal trade secrets from the world's biggest soft-drink maker and trying to sell them to archrival PepsiCo Inc. pleaded guilty Monday to one count each of conspiracy.
Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced Jan. 29.
Former Coca-Cola secretary Joya Williams is still scheduled to stand trial starting the week of Nov. 13.
"She is absolutely not pleading," said her attorney, Janice Singer.
During the plea hearing in federal court, Mr. Duhaney told the judge that Ms. Williams, a longtime friend, contacted him first and wanted to "make things happen," and Mr. Dimson testified that Mr. Duhaney then contacted him to try to broker a deal with Pepsi.
Mr. Duhaney entered his plea as part of a deal with prosecutors and probably will cooperate if the Williams case goes to trial, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bjay Pak. The government agreed to push for a lighter sentence in exchange for Mr. Duhaney's assistance, though Mr. Pak pointed out that he could still get the maximum sentence.
Mr. Duhaney's attorney, Don Samuel, called his client a "bit player who was very briefly involved as a go-between."
Mr. Dimson's attorney, Anna Blitz, didn't comment on why her client decided to plead guilty.
Ms. Williams, Mr. Dimson and Mr. Duhaney were indicted July 11 on federal conspiracy charges. They were accused of stealing new product samples and confidential documents from Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and trying to sell them to PepsiCo's Pepsi unit, which is second in U.S. soft-drink sales to Coca-Cola.
The alleged plans were foiled after Pepsi warned Coca-Cola.
The prosecution says a box containing two undisclosed Coca-Cola product samples and other confidential company documents was found in Mr. Duhaney's home during a search July 5, the day all three were arrested and the same day a $1.5 million transaction was to occur. Documents also were found in Ms. Williams' home.
Fourteen pages of Coke's confidential "marketing playbook" also were found, Mr. Pak said.
Coke has declined to reveal which product or products are linked to the samples.
Prosecutors say Ms. Williams, who has since been fired as an administrative assistant for Coke's global brand director at its Atlanta headquarters, took the information from the company and gave it to Mr. Dimson and Mr. Duhaney.
Mr. Duhaney's wife testified in July that Ms. Williams had been a friend of her and her husband's and had even offered to help prepare a rsum for him.
Ms. Williams does not have a criminal record. The other suspects both served time in federal prison: Mr. Dimson on a bank fraud charge, Mr. Duhaney on a cocaine charge.
Coke expressed relief at the news of the two guilty pleas.
"We're thankful for the diligent efforts of the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI in bringing this matter toward closure," said Crystal Walker, a Coke spokeswoman.
Coca-Cola shares rose 48 cents to $47.23 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange after rising to a new 52-week high of $47.50 earlier in the session.