UNITED STATES NEWS

Police union employee charged with importing illegal opioids

Mar 30, 2023, 3:40 PM

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The office manager for a Northern California police union allegedly imported illegal synthetic opioids from India and other countries and at least once used her work computer and address and the union’s UPS account to ship the drugs within the country, federal prosecutors said.

Joanne Marian Segovia, executive director of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, was charged with attempting to unlawfully import valeryl fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, federal prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.

Starting in 2015, Segovia had at least 61 drug shipments mailed to her San Jose home from India, Hong Kong, Hungary and Singapore with manifests that listed their contents as “wedding party favors,” “gift makeup,” “chocolate and sweets” and “food supplement,” according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday.

It was not immediately known if Segovia, 64, has an attorney who can speak on her behalf.

Tom Saggau, a spokesperson for the police union in San Jose, said Segovia, a civilian, has worked for the union since 2003, planning funerals for officers who die in the line of duty, being the liaison between the department and the officers’ families and organizing office festivities and fundraisers.

He said that federal officials informed the union last Friday that Segovia was under investigation and that no one else at the union was involved or knew about Segovia’s alleged acts.

The revelation shocked her colleagues, Saggau said.

“We didn’t have any reason to suspect her,” he said, adding that the union’s board of directors has pledged to fully support the federal investigation.

Federal prosecutors said that in 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted a parcel being sent to her home address that contained $5,000 worth of Tramadol, a synthetic opioid, and sent her a letter telling her they were seizing the pills. The next year, the CBP again intercepted a shipment of Tramadol valued at $700 and sent her a seizure letter, court records showed.

But federal officials didn’t start investigating Segovia until last year when investigators found her name and home address on the cellphone of a suspected drug dealer who is part of a network that ships controlled substances made in India to the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the complaint. That drug trafficking network has distributed hundreds of thousands of pills in 48 states, federal prosecutors said.

Segovia used WhatsApp messaging service and her personal and office computers to order thousands of opioid tablets and other pills to her home and agreed to distribute the drugs elsewhere in the United States, prosecutors said.

On at least one occasion in 2021, Segovia shipped the illicit drugs to a North Carolina address by using the police union’s UPS account, prosecutors said. That address is linked to at least five illicit drug seizures, they said.

Investigators found hundreds of photographs in a WhatsApp chat on Segovai’s cellphone, including an image of the UPS shipping slip and another one of a computer screen showing a PayPal payment to an Indian name and Segovia’s police union business cards under it.

“Based on my training and experience, I know that shippers of controlled substances often send receipts and tracking numbers as proof that they in fact sent a package. I believe that the receipt provided by SEGOVIA was offered by her as proof that she sent a package to the North Carolina addressee,” David Vargas, a special agent for Homeland Security Investigation, wrote in the affidavit.

According to the complaint, Segovia continued to order controlled substances even after being interviewed by federal investigators in February. On March 13, federal agents seized a parcel in Kentucky, containing valeryl fentanyl, addressed to Segovia. The package allegedly originated from China three days earlier and declared its contents as a “clock,” prosecutors said.

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Police union employee charged with importing illegal opioids