A top official in the police union representing officers in San Jose, California was accused by federal officials of using union resources as part of a scheme to import a synthetic “analogue” to fentanyl.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for California’s Northern District, 64-year-old Joanne Segovia ordered “thousands of opioid and other pills to her home” intending to distribute them around the United States.
Segovia has been the executive director of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association (SJPOA) for around 20 years, though she is not a police officer herself. She has been listed as being on “paid leave” since her arrest. According to authorities, she was charged with attempting to import valeryl fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. At least 61 shipments of the drug were sent to her home between October 2015 and January 2023:
The manifests for these shipments declared their contents with labels like “Wedding Party Favors,” “Gift Makeup,” or “Chocolate and Sweets.” But between July 2019 and January 2023, officials intercepted and opened five of these shipments and found that they contained thousands of pills of controlled substances, including the synthetic opioids Tramadol and Tapentadol. Certain parcels were valued at thousands of dollars’ worth of drugs.
Segovia, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, also allegedly made use of not just the SJPOA’s offices for the scheme but also allegedly used the group’s UPS shipping account. The Daily Beast reported that in her first encounter with investigators in February 2023, Segovia claimed she worked for the San Jose Police Department. Later, she contacted them attempting to blame “another woman whom she identified as a family friend and housekeeper” for the drug-related transactions traced back to her:
“[I]t all leads to her,” Segovia allegedly said, telling the agents that the notion occurred to her “like a light bulb” after the previous Homeland Security interview. Segovia also claimed the housekeeper had impersonated her on WhatsApp, which had been used to facilitate the deals, and was able to do so because “she knows so much about me,” according to the complaint. Segovia said she was reluctant to “throw [the housekeeper] to the wolves,” but told the agents she wanted to be “honest” with them.
The president of the police union, Sean Pritchard, has claimed that Segovia’s actions do not reflect on the group’s members.
“She’s been the grandma of the POA,” Pritchard told KNTV-TV. “This is not the person we’ve known, the person who has worked with fallen officers’ families, organized fundraisers for officers’ kids – just not who we’ve known over a decade.”
Police Chief Anthony Mata also distanced the department from Segovia.
“This news is disheartening and comes as a shock to me and the leaders and membership of the SJPOA,” he said in a statement. “I want our stakeholders to know that the civilian employee was never employed in any capacity by the San Jose Police Department.”
Fentanyl has been a key part of online and law enforcement narratives distorting its effect that have been allowed to recirculate thanks to local news outlets and political figures, despite being roundly debunked. The drug has also been used to gin up similarly debunked anti-immigrant rhetoric.