FAIP North America, Inc.(FNA) Files 10-count Federal Complaint

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Suit contends Indiana residents Gokalp Onay and John R. Tobinski along with Sistema USA (based in Evansville, IN) and its Italian parent Sistema s.r.l. violated Computer Fraud and Trade Secret Acts

FAIP North America, Inc. (FNA) has filed a 10-count federal complaint alleging that two former employees conspired with a major competitor to wrongfully acquire and use highly valuable confidential information to compete unfairly against FNA in North America.

The lawsuit contends that the two former FNA employees -- Gokalp Onay of Newburgh, IN and John R. Tobinski of Evansville, IN -- violated employment confidentiality agreements along with the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for the benefit of themselves and Sistema s.r.l. (based in Italy) and Sistema USA, Inc., its U.S. subsidiary, based in Evansville, IN.

The civil complaint was filed in the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division.

FNA, based in Elk Grove, IL, is involved in the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of Interpump Cleaning Products (IPC) -- electric pressure washers and accessories -- to retailers throughout North America. The 15-year-old company is one of the leading private label providers of electric pressure washers sold by mass market and specialty retailers in the consumer marketplace throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Onay and Tobinski previously worked for FNA in positions that afforded them access to sensitive financial and marketing information. Onay was employed from 1995 until 1999 and Tobinski from 1999 until 2003. Both are alleged to have individually and jointly violated employment agreements to provide information to the Sistema entities that allowed for unfair competition.

Onay, following his resignation from FNA, began working for or with one or both of the Sistema companies. The lawsuit alleges that Onay, while acting as an officer or agent of Sistema USA, maintained a relationship with Tobinski who, while still employed by FNA, allegedly secretively provided Onay highly valuable and confidential information. This information allegedly was subsequently used by Sistema to develop and promote Sistema pressure washers in North America.

Tobinski's employment relationship with FNA was terminated in August 2003. After this date, Tobinski and / or Onay allegedly continued to electronically access confidential information owned by FNA in violation of federal criminal statutes. FNA cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the matter which started a criminal investigation.        

The civil complaint charges the two Sistema entities, Onay and Tobinski with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Illinois Trade Secret Act, Unfair Competition, Breach of Contract, Tortious Interference with Contract, Breach of Fiduciary Duty and Tortious Interference with Prospective Business Relations.

The case is entitled FAIP North America, Inc. v. Sistema s.r.l. et al., Civil Action No. 05-C-4002, and is pending before Judge Charles Kocoras. A copy of the complaint can be accessed from the U.S. District Court in Chicago, on line at https://ecf.ilnd.uscourts.gov/ (password required), or contact Raymond D. Minkus at (847) 509-5777.


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Jeffrey Bierig
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