OAKLAND — Federal authorities say they’ve busted marijuana traffickers who were taking hydroponically grown pot from Northern California through the Bay Area to Louisiana.
While authorities were investigating Etienne and Gobert, two of their associates were shot and killed under mysterious circumstances — one in Oakland, and one in Louisiana, according to the complaint. The Louisiana homicide victim, Rodney Savoy, was killed months after Etienne admitted to police that he’d provided Savoy with marijuana for sale — and after Savoy had told authorities Etienne was the leader of a drug trafficking organization, according to the FBI agent.
During the investigation, authorities seized multiple U.S. Postal Service shipments allegedly tied to the group, which amounted to more than 48 pounds of marijuana.
Authorities began investigating Etienne and Gobert in January 2016, after a police officer searched them at a Houston airport and discovered their bags contained nearly $24,000 in cash. Etienne and Gobert told police to hold onto the money and that they just wanted to board their flight to San Francisco, according to the FBI agent’s statement.
Two months later, in March 2016, a 28-year-old man named Trince Thibodeaux was gunned down on the 8900 block of International Boulevard in Oakland. Police said at the time he had recently moved to the Bay Area from Louisiana but provided few more details.
The FBI’s statement of probable cause, though, says after Thibodeaux was killed, police spoke to a source who identified him, as well as another man — Rodney Savoy — as being part of a “narcotics conspiracy.” A week later, an anonymous DEA informant told Louisiana authorities that he or she (authorities wouldn’t reveal the source’s gender) had met with Thibodeaux two days before he was killed.
The informant gave authorities a license plate number, which was tied to a rental car allegedly purchased by Gobert. The car was returned the day before Thibodeaux was killed.
A little more than four months later, in Aug. 2016, a woman called 911 from a trailer park in Nuba, Louisiana, saying someone had broken into her home and was firing shots while she hid in the closet. Savoy was found in the master bedroom, dead from gunshot wounds.
Meanwhile, authorities continued to trail Etienne and Gobert. In May 2016, Louisiana police pulled the couple over. Etienne gave authorities permission to search his car, and they found thousands of dollars in cash. Then, he admitted to selling marijuana, according to an FBI agent’s probable cause statement.
During his conversation with police, Etienne said he was in the Bay Area shortly before Thibodeaux was killed, but denied involvement in the homicide. He said he’d sent Thibodeaux’s family money after he learned what had happened.
Etienne also said Thibodeaux and Savoy were working for “some guy in Oakland” involved in the marijuana business. He said that some marijuana had been “caught in the mail” — which authorities took to be a reference to one of the shipments they’d intercepted — and that afterward, he’d given marijuana to Savoy and Thibodeaux.
The agent’s statement makes no indication of Etienne or Gobert being arrested at that point. Court records show they were charged with federal conspiracy in December before the federal grand jury indictment last week.
In September, months after interviewing Etienne, authorities identified several other alleged members of the trafficking ring, according to the FBI’s statement. They also seized records of a phone allegedly owned by the couple that showed text messages being sent and received from November-December.
Neither Etienne nor Gobert has entered a plea, according to court records. Etienne is also facing criminal charges in Louisiana state court, according to federal authorities.