Baker hit with $30m suit over 'stolen' recipes

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The Independent US

The staff and owners of Morabito's bakery in Philadelphia are proud of their special hoagie bread roll. It's fresh, tasty and has an Italian heritage dating back generations. The secret recipe is something the family-owned firm is determined to protect.

Which is why the family is shedding few tears over the fate of Mazen Said, a rival baker from North Carolina who allegedly travelled more than 700 miles to slip into the Morabito bakery in the middle of the night and steal that recipe and 60 others.

And these recipes, it should be pointed out, were not just any old recipes. The local district attorney says that they have been valued at $30m (£18m) - a lot of dough.

"I suppose I have seen cases of industrial espionage before but they have usually involved computers and people stealing information from them," said Bruce Castor, DA for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. "This is the first time it has involved recipes for bread."

The night-time expedition to steal the secrets that have helped the Morabito bakery develop a business that sells bread to 28 US states is said to have taken place on 14 and 15 June. A security camera allegedly recorded Mr Said, 30, donning a white lab coat, walking around the plant, taking folders containing 66 different recipes and then videotaping the interior of the bakery.

Two days later the baker from Greensboro, North Carolina, allegedly approached an employee and offered him $700 for the secret of the hoagie roll.

"They have a wonderful flavour," said Cassandra Morabito, trying to explain why someone might wish to try and steal the family's bread and butter. The bakery has been operating in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown since the height of the Great Depression, when Ms Morabito's grandfather, Michael Angelo Morabito, started baking using a rented oven. His 12 children helped deliver the freshly baked bread.

The story of the stolen recipe has something of a twist. Mr Said, an Israeli Arab originally from Nazareth who has denied charges of theft, has had his bail set at $2m. The North Carolina magistrate claims the bond was so high because of "possible links to money laundering for terrorist organisations".

The police and Mr Said's family both deny any such link. His brother Feraz said: "This is big-time ridiculous."