The former CEO of one of Lafayette’s largest oil and gas service companies is accused in a federal lawsuit of framing his brother on a drug charge in an attempt to secure control of the family business.
Former Knight Oil Tools CEO Mark Knight was booked in April on a racketeering charge after, police say, he orchestrated the arrest of his younger brother, Bryan, last year on drug charges.
Investigators have given few details about the motive in the case, but Bryan Knight alleges in a lawsuit filed this week that his brother was trying to force him to give up a majority of his ownership interest in the family business.
The move came after Bryan Knight questioned Mark Knight’s “lavish and uncontrolled spending for his personal benefit” when the older brother became CEO following the death of their father and Knight Oil Tools founder, Eddy Knight, in 2002, according to the lawsuit.
Police arrested Bryan Knight on the evening of June 4, 2014, acting on a tip from a Knight Oil Tools employee who — at the behest of Mark Knight — had just hidden cocaine, methadone and painkillers in containers attached with magnetic strips under Bryan Knight’s car, allegations laid out by investigators in arrest affidavits.
Bryan Knight was arrested leaving an attorney’s office after meeting with Mark Knight in a mediation session concerning ownership of Knight Oil Tools.
While Bryan Knight was fighting the drug case, his older brother “told him he could take care of the charges” if the younger brother cooperated with him, the lawsuit alleges.
Prosecutors eventually dropped the drug charges, and investigators focused their attention on Mark Knight in March.
He was arrested in April, along with former Knight Oil Tools employee Russell Manuel, former State Trooper Corey Jackson and former Lafayette Parish sheriff’s Deputy Jason Kinch.
Jackson and Kinch, who both were fired after their arrests, face racketeering charges for allegedly helping frame Bryan Knight in exchange for cash and gifts, according to police.
Manuel, described by investigators as Mark Knight’s “henchman,” faces charges of drug possession, extortion and intimidating a witness for his alleged role in the setup. He also is accused of threatening another Knight Oil Tools employee who had learned about it.
Manuel was laid off in March.
The lawsuit alleges that before the drugs were planted in June 2014, someone had secretly installed a GPS tracking device on Bryan Knight’s car and one or both of the law enforcement officers followed him in the hopes of catching him doing something illegal.
“After several weeks of illegal surveillance that was unfruitful, defendants decided to accelerate the timetable by obtaining illegal drugs and planting them on (the) plaintiff’s vehicle in a magnetic box,” the lawsuit alleges.
Mark Knight is accused of contacting Manuel and Jackson when Bryan Knight left the attorney’s office after the mediation, and they then made an anonymous call to Lafayette Metro Narcotics, a special drug unit, to report Bryan Knight as they followed his car.
Manuel and Jackson also called Kinch, who worked with Metro Narcotics, the lawsuit says.
Kinch was on vacation in Florida but helped direct the drug stop over his cellphone, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Mark Knight, Manuel, Jackson and Kinch for civil rights violations, mental anguish, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment.
An attorney representing Mark Knight in the criminal case did not return a phone call for comment on the allegations in the lawsuit. Manuel’s attorney, Pat Magee, declined comment.
Mark Knight stepped down from the CEO job in December and resigned his position as chairman of the board on April 17, a few days after his arrest.
Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.