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William Koch Must Face False Imprisonment Suit: Judge

Billionaire William Koch
The brother of David Koch and Charles Koch, William Koch, pictured, made his fortune partly by developing underground coal deposits in Somerset, Colorado. Photographer: Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images

William Koch lost a bid to dismiss a lawsuit by a former Oxbow Carbon & Minerals LLC executive alleging the billionaire held him captive at his Colorado ranch.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco said that while Kirby Martensen doesn’t allege in his complaint that Koch “directly participated in the false imprisonment, he includes facts that support an inference that the persons who did” were acting as Koch’s agents.

The individuals who allegedly held Martensen against his will “used buildings and vehicles located on the defendant’s private property” and Koch’s plane, according to the ruling.

“We welcome the opportunity to bring this case in front of a jury, and we’ll see who the jury wants to believe,” John Scott, Martensen’s attorney, said by phone.

Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Koch, said Martensen was “a disgruntled employee fired for committing fraud.”

“We look forward to addressing this frivolous suit on the merits,” Goldstein said in an e-mail. “Once discovery commences, the public will be able to see the absurdity of Mr. Martensen’s claims.”

Corley said in February that Martensen, former senior vice president at Oxbow, could refile the claims after she ruled that his original lawsuit had to be dismissed.

Bear Ranch

Martensen alleges he was held captive at Koch’s Bear Ranch last year after the billionaire discovered his concerns about what he says was a plan to avoid U.S. taxes on $200 million in profit.

He was interrogated, fired and served with a lawsuit filed against him in Florida over an alleged $40 million fraud at Oxbow Carbon & Minerals LLC.

Koch has said that Martensen’s lawsuit is in response to the Florida case, which alleges Martensen accepted illegal bribes, kickbacks and other payments from Oxbow competitors and “secretly shared in the payments, revenues and profits derived by plaintiffs’ competitors,” according to the complaint.

Oxbow, a West Palm Beach, Florida-based petroleum coke export broker, and two affiliates have combined annual sales of more than $4 billion and more than 1,100 employees worldwide, according to the company.

The company is the largest distributor of petroleum coke in the world, with annual shipments of almost 1 million metric tons, exporting petroleum coke to markets in Europe, Latin America and Asia, according to court papers.

William Koch, 72, is the brother of David Koch and Charles Koch, and made his fortune partly by developing underground coal deposits in Somerset, Colorado. He maintains a working cattle operation at the ranch, located southwest of Aspen.

The case is Martensen v. Koch, 12-05257, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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