Broward News

Did Bill Koch Imprison and Interrogate an Employee at His 19th-Century Western Ranch? Cops Back Employee's Wild Tale

Late last year, an Oxbow executive named Kirby Martensen arrived at an isolated splash of mountainous land near Aspen to tour Bill Koch's "19th century western town." Bear Ranch, he soon learned, was accessible by only one road and didn't have cell-phone reception. No way in or out.

The entire town sitting, on 5,000 acres, was owned by Bill Koch -- Martensen's boss.

The two men met, toured the ranch by helicopter to admire Koch's 19th-century buildings, and ate lunch, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Northern California. Then, Martensen was taken into a guarded room, where he was interrogated for hours to investigate his alleged plot to defraud Oxbow, fired, and put on a private plane back to Oakland.

Koch has denied most of the allegations -- but now, a local deputy sheriff, who had apparently provided security duty that day, has come forward to corroborate Martensen's claims. Deputy Clarence Hart said twice during an interview filed last week with the state Bureau of Investigation, "I'm so stupid. Why did I do this?" Hart has since been placed on administrative leave.

Hart said the drama began in March of last year. Another sheriff at Hart's outpost asked him whether he was interested in doing some extra "security work" for Bear Ranch. Koch planned to fire some employees and wanted extra security in case "things got out of control."

Koch's whole Florida security team materialized at the ranch, Hart said. Another sheriff in the complaint described them as "kind of like secret service type" -- "big beefy football player type guys."

Hart said he witnessed two men escorted into a cabin and held there for hours.

Inside the cabin, Martensen claims Koch's men intimidated and interrogated him. They allegedly "accused" Martensen of participating in a sprawling scheme to defraud Koch and Oxbow of millions of dollars, taking kickbacks and colluding with competitors.

Martensen separately alleges the confrontation occurred because he'd discovered widespread tax evasion at Oxbow.

Martensen called the interviewers "agents of Koch" but doesn't say Koch was present during the cabin interrogation.

Three hours later, Martensen was put inside an SUV, served his termination papers, and taken to the Denver airport, where he was placed on a private jet with men Martensen contends were armed, and flown to Oakland.

It's unclear whether Koch advised his human resources department before launching this (alleged) method of termination.

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