The longtime office manager of the San Jose police union is being charged with attempting to illegally import a form of the opioid fentanyl, in connection with an international scheme to bring synthetic drugs into the U.S. and distribute them, federal officials said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco announced late Wednesday it filed a criminal complaint against Joanne Marian Segovia, 64, the executive director of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association.
If convicted, Segovia could face up to 20 years in prison, officials said.
“This is an incredibly disturbing allegation,” San José Mayor Matt Mahan said on Twitter. “No one is above the law, regardless of who their employer is.”
Mayor Matt's statement in response to the US Attorney's disturbing allegation that a civilian employee of the SJ Police Officers' Association was importing and distributing fentanyl. Important to note that the person accused is not a sworn police officer or city employee. pic.twitter.com/8QeW97JokD
— Mayor Matt Mahan (@MattMahanSJ) March 30, 2023
The complaint, filed on March 27 in federal court, alleges Segovia “used her personal and office computers to order thousands of opioid and other pills to her home and agreed to distribute the drugs elsewhere in the United States,” the attorney’s office said in a statement Wednesday.
In at least one instance, she used the police union’s UPS account and return address to ship a package to North Carolina, which investigators believe was a drug shipment.
Investigators said Segovia lied to them when confronted, and tried to blame her housekeeper for the entire scheme. Segovia and her attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.
Tom Saggau, a spokesperson for the police union, told San José Spotlight that Segovia is the only person in the organization being investigated, and that the union is cooperating with the investigation.
Saggau said Segovia is not a police officer, and though her title is “executive director,” Saggau said she is an office manager, and had no decision making power over the direction of the union, which is run by police officers. She’s been with the organization since 2003.
“She ran the infrastructure,” Saggau said. “She was the grandmother of the POA. She was the one that if an officer’s kid got cancer, she would do the fundraiser.”
A biography for her on the union website archived in late 2022 said in part: “She maintains control over financial and administrative matters associated with the SJPOA, as well as the SJPOA Charitable Foundation. Joanne works closely with the Executive Board and the Board of Directors to ensure members’ needs are best served.”
Saggau said that description is “not true” and that Segovia “may have inflated her role. She is directed by the board.”
Segovia was placed on paid leave on March 24, when the union was notified by federal officials of the investigation, and searched her office and home. Investigators said they found pills in both locations. At her office they seized 283 Tapentadol pills, another synthetic opioid.
Saggau said an internal investigation has also been launched.
Between October 2015 and January 2023, federal officials said Segovia had at least 61 shipments mailed to her home, originating from countries including China, Hungary, India, Canada, Spain and Singapore.
While the manifests for those shipments labeled their contents with innocuous terms like “Wedding Party Favors,” “Gift Makeup,” “Food Supplement” or “Chocolate and Sweets,” investigators said they were likely illicit shipments of drugs.
Between July 2019 and January 2023, officials intercepted five of the shipments and “found that they contained thousands of pills of controlled substances, including the synthetic opioids Tramadol and Tapentadol.” Some of the packages contained thousands of dollars’ worth of drugs.
Segovia is alleged to have used encrypted WhatsApp communications to handle logistics for the pills. Between January 2020 and March 2023, the complaint said Segovia exchanged hundreds of messages with someone using a phone with an India country code to discuss shipping and payment details for pills.
The messages contained “hundreds of pictures of tablets, shipping labels, packaging, payment receipts and payment confirmations,” the attorney’s office said. In multiple messages in that chat, the complaint alleges Segovia mentioned her work responsibilities, at one point apologizing for an apparent delay in shipping.
“Im so sorry, im on a business trip because we had 2 officers that got shot! I should be home tomorrow night so ill get them shipped as soon as i can,” Segovia wrote.
When confronted by investigators about her involvement in February, officials said she at first tried to deny she had ever ordered anything but supplements and claimed to “work for the police department.” She also refused to let investigators see her CashApp transactions.
In a follow up interview with investigators, officials said she lied and attempted to shift blame onto a woman she characterized as a “family friend and housekeeper,” who she said has a substance abuse problem.
Segovia’s CashApp account was used for 127 transactions that investigators said was likely for drug purchases, and was linked to her police union email account.
A June 2021 photo sent from her WhatsApp account shows an HP computer monitor that appears to be Segovia’s monitor at work, displaying a PayPal website receipt for $999.99, sent to an entity with an “apparent Indian name,” the complaint said.
“Several items are visible in the area in front of the monitor, including a San Jose Police Officers’ Association letter opener with a business card containing Segovia’s name and notes containing apparent POA-related codes,” the complaint said.
Even after being interviewed by federal investigators in February, the complaint alleges Segovia continued to order controlled substances. A package labeled as containing a “clock” sent from China and addressed to Segovia was seized on March 13 by federal agents in Kentucky, which contained valeryl fentanyl, the attorney’s office said.
Segovia was nabbed as part of an ongoing Homeland Security investigation into a “network that was shipping controlled substances into the San Francisco Bay Area from abroad,” the attorney’s office said.
Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.
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