(KRON) — An Oakland man, Burte Gucci Rhodes, a.k.a. “Moeshawn,” was sentenced to serve the rest of his life in prison for committing a murder-for-hire, conspiring before the murder, and dealing heroin. The sentence was handed down by the U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Wednesday.
Prosecutors described 41-year-old Rhodes as an “assassin.”
He was convicted by a jury after a week-long trial last year. The trial focused on the March 22, 2016, murder of Louisiana native Trince Thibodeaux, 28.
Prosecutors said trial evidence demonstrated that Marcus Etienne, a.k.a. “Hitler,” of St. Martin Parish, La., was the leader of a racketeering enterprise based in Louisiana.
The criminal enterprise engaged in a wide range of crimes, including narcotics distribution, assault, robbery, extortion, extortionate collection of extensions of credit, murder-for-hire, murder, money laundering, illegal firearms possession, dogfighting, and obstruction of justice.
The enterprise was led by Etienne, and eventually, Thibodeaux became one of seven members of the enterprise. In 2016, Etienne tasked Thibodeaux with transporting several thousand dollars and drugs from Louisiana to California. Etienne later believed that Thibodeaux stole money and narcotics from the enterprise and ordered that Thibodeaux be killed. Etienne offered Mario Robinson, 36, of Oakland, $5,000 to murder Thibodeaux. Robinson then contracted with Rhodes, a longtime friend of his from Oakland, to complete the murder in exchange for $5,000.
Evidence at trial showed that on the night of March 22, 2016, Robinson and another member of the organization lured Thibodeaux to a predetermined location near the intersection of 90th Avenue and International Boulevard in Oakland, where Rhodes was waiting. Once Thibodeaux arrived, Rhodes approached him from behind and shot him nine times, prosecutors said.
One week after the murder, Robinson wire transferred money to Rhodes.
In 2018, a grand jury charged Rhodes with murder-for-hire, conspiracy, and other crimes while Etienne and Robinson also were charged with several crimes related to the criminal enterprise.
Etienne and Robinson admitted their respective roles in the crimes and both defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana, racketeering conspiracy, and conspiracy.
Judge Alsup sentenced both Etienne and Robinson in 2020, ordering Etienne to serve 34 years in prison and Robinson to serve 32 years in prison. In addition, Etienne and Robinson twice refused to testify at trial about the murder-for-hire scheme, even after they were subpoenaed by the government and ordered to testify by the court.
Consequently, Judge Alsup held Etienne and Robinson in contempt of court and added 12 months of prison time to each defendant’s sentence.
The United States Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime Strike Force prosecuted the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI, IRS, and Oakland Police Department.