Mark Knight kicked off board of Knight Oil Tools in wake of arrest _lowres

Mark Knight

The chairman of the board at Knight Oil Tools surrendered to authorities Tuesday, two days after state and local police accused him of setting up his brother last year in a bogus drug bust.

Mark Knight, 57, was arrested at about noon at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center on one count of racketeering and quickly posted bail of $100,000, his attorney Mike Skinner said.

Skinner, a former U.S. Attorney representing Knight in the criminal case, declined further comment. His client faces up to 50 years in prison if he’s charged and convicted with racketeering and could be fined up to $1 million.

The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and State Police issued a joint statement Sunday that accused Knight of arranging a scheme to set up his brother, Bryan Knight, on drug charges in June.

The statement also leveled charges at Knight Oil employee Russell Manuel, who answered directly to Mark Knight, and at two law enforcement officers — Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Kinch and State Trooper Corey Jackson. Kinch and Jackson are accused of being paid thousands of dollars in cash and in gifts for consulting advice on how to set up Bryan Knight.

Bryan Knight, 56, was arrested June 4 after police found cocaine and prescription drugs in two containers with magnetic strips on the undercarriage of his vehicle.

Mark Knight either resigned or was booted out as president and chief executive of Knight Oil Tools in January. A statement from Knight Oil Tools dated Jan. 15 said little about him, other than that he would stay on as chairman of the board to focus on the company’s strategic initiatives. The bulk of the Knight Oil statement was about the company’s new president, Earl J. Blackwell.

Blackwell said Tuesday that the company was not ready to issue a statement or talk about what happened.

Detectives believe Bryan Knight was arrested in the summer after Manuel, the Knight Oil Tools employee who reported directly to Mark Knight, planted cocaine and prescription pills in the magnetic cases, attached them to the underside of Bryan Knight’s Cadillac Escalade, then called in a drug tip. An agent with Lafayette Metro Narcotics Task Force stopped Knight and found cocaine and prescription pills in the containers and arrested him.

Bryan Knight maintained his innocence, according to the arrest affidavit.

“Mr. Knight advised he let his friend use his vehicle and believes his friend set him up,” Metro Agent Mario Gamez said in the affidavit. In December, the Lafayette Parish District Attorney’s Office opted not to formally charge Knight.

In March, police received another tip, information about the containers in which the drugs were planted. The tip led detectives to conclude the containers were obtained through a purchase made by Knight Oil Tools, and that it was an inside job to frame Bryan Knight.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Manuel had not yet surrendered to authorities. Sheriff’s Maj. Art LeBreton said this week that authorities did not consider Manuel a flight risk.

LeBreton also said there were no other suspects other than the four named suspects. He said the attempt to frame Bryan Knight was the result of a fight over “finances.”

On Tuesday, Mark Knight’s photo and executive biography had been stripped from the company website, though it was unclear when the website was edited.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was modified on April 23, 2015, to correct the spelling of Russell Manuel.