Bay Area police union leader allegedly smuggled fentanyl into US to sell in bulk

Segovia received 61 shipments over eight years, federal prosecutors allege.

March 31, 2023, 3:18 PM

The head of a police union in the San Francisco Bay Area faces federal charges for allegedly smuggling thousands of synthetic opioids into the U.S. from multiple countries with the intent to distribute them.

San Jose Police Officers Association Executive Director Joanne Marian Segovia, 64, has been charged with attempt to unlawfully import a controlled substance -- specifically valeryl fentanyl, a fentanyl analog -- according to a complaint filed in federal court earlier this week.

Between 2015 and 2023, Segovia received 61 shipments that were labeled "Wedding Party Favors," "Shirts Tops," "Gift Makeup," "Chocolate and Sweets," "Food Supplement," "Health Product" and "Supplement," originating from countries including Hong Kong, Hungary, India and Singapore, according to the complaint. In reality, they were illicit drugs, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California allege.

Between July 2019 and January 2023, as part of an ongoing Homeland Security investigation into controlled substances being shipped into the San Francisco Bay Area from India, authorities intercepted and opened five such shipments and found that they contained thousands of pills, including the synthetic opioids Tramadol and Tapentadol, prosecutors said.

In a voluntary interview with Homeland Security agents in February, Segovia reportedly claimed to have only ordered "supplements" and "nothing out of the ordinary," according to the complaint. She reportedly denied ordering or receiving prescription medications through the mail and said that she would never do so, adding, "I wouldn't even know where to start," according to the complaint.

In a second interview earlier this month, Segovia allegedly told investigators "that she had nothing to do with the orders sent to her" and blamed them on a woman she identified as a "family friend and housekeeper," according to the complaint.

Segovia continued to order controlled substances even after the February interview with Homeland Security, prosecutors allege. On March 13, federal agents in Kentucky seized a parcel purportedly containing a clock that originated from China that was addressed to Segovia and allegedly contained valeryl fentanyl, the complaint said.

Amid the investigation, agents also found emails and WhatsApp chat messages on Segovia's phone allegedly talking about shipments of drugs.

The Executive Director of the San Jose Police Officers Association Joanne Marian Segovia is seen here an undated file photo.
Joanne Marian Segovia/Linkedin

Segovia is scheduled to make her first court appearance Friday afternoon.

ABC News was unable to reach Segovia for comment. Online court records do not include any attorney information for her.

If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.

Segovia had been with the union, which represents San Jose police officers, for nearly 20 years, according to San Jose Police Officers Association President Sean Pritchard.

"I was shocked, became saddened, and as the days have gone by, I'm at a place where I'm now, I'm angry," Pritchard told San Francisco ABC station KGO.

Pritchard told KGO he became aware of the investigation a week ago after getting a call from federal authorities about the charges against Segovia.

"A woman who has helped fallen officers' families, helped organize fundraisers when officers' children are sick. That's the person we know," he told the station.

Federal investigators allege Segovia used her personal and office computers to order thousands of opioids and other pills to her home and used her office at the San Jose Police Officers' Association to distribute controlled substances, including using the union's UPS account.

The union said it had no knowledge of the alleged criminal activity and is conducting an internal investigation.

Segovia, a civilian employee, has been placed on leave, the union said.

ABC News' Jack Date contributed to this report.

Related Topics