A former research technician and scientist for Colgate-Palmolive has admitted to stealing proprietary toothpaste formulas so that he could make and sell oral care products under a business he created overseas.
Muamer "Mel" Reci, 57, of Haskell, NJ, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He used his Colgate work account to send information about his business plan and toothpaste recipes, including a dry mouth formula that had not been released on the market, to his associates, according to a news release issued on October 21 by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey.
The name of the company he ripped off is not listed in court documents, but online profiles and other litigation show he spent most of his career at Colgate.
During his approximately 20-year tenure at the company in Piscataway, NJ, Reci conducted lab analysis, experiments, and research for Colgate-Palmolive's oral care products. As a research scientist, Reci had access to confidential, economically valuable business information, including a database that included secret formulas and manufacturing processes owned by the company, according to court documents. Reci had a duty not disclose trade secrets or other confidential information.
In August 2012, Reci and other unnamed individuals established Reci & Sons, a consumer hygiene and cleaning products company. A subsidiary, Reci Enterprises, was established in Macedonia in November 2015. Reci never disclosed either enterprise to his employer, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
On July 31, 2016, a document titled, "Project Eurodent," was found in Reci's work email. It was a business plan that called for Reci Enterprises to develop, manufacture, and sell a toothpaste named Eurodent. The plan, which was valued at about $2 million, aimed to unveil Reci Enterprises' research labs and manufacturing complex to the public by the end of 2017, according to court documents and statements.
As the anticipated construction date for manufacturing facility approached, Reci sent several emails, including an attachment that contained proprietary toothpaste formulas, including a children's formula and a not-yet-launched dry mouth formula, to an unnamed person at Reci & Sons and instructed the person to print the formulas and "file them," the attorney's office noted.
Reci, who will be sentenced in February, faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In December 2018, Colgate-Palomolive sued Reci and other family members for misappropriation of trade secrets and other violations.
On September 25, a judge signed an administrative order terminating the litigation, giving the parties 60 days to agree to a pending confidential settlement. If things move along as expected, the judge is expected to grant the administrative termination of the case on November 26, according to court records.