March 30 (UPI) -- A senior police union official in San Jose, Calif., is facing up to 20 years in prison on federal charges of attempting to import synthetic fentanyl into the United States, the office of the U.S. Attorney said.
San Jose Police Officers' Association Executive Director Joanne Marian Segovia used her office to order thousands of opioids and other pills and distribute them across the United States, according to the complaint filed Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California.
The complaint alleges that Segovia was apprehended as part of an almost decade-long ongoing Homeland Security investigation into a criminal network trafficking drugs into the San Francisco Bay Area from Asia and Europe.
Between October 2015 and January 2023, Segovia is alleged to have had at least 61 shipments delivered to her home from countries including Hong Kong, Hungary, India and Singapore where the contents were variously described as wedding gifts, makeup and sweets.
Five shipments intercepted by agents between 2019 and this year contained thousands of pills of controlled substances, including the synthetic opioids Tramadol and Tapentadol, with street values of thousands of dollars.
The police association said Segovia, who is a civilian employee, had been placed on administrative leave.
"No one at the POA is involved or had prior knowledge of the alleged acts," said spokesman Tom Saggau. "The POA immediately placed the civilian employee on leave and as is standard procedure cut off all access to the POA. The board of directors is saddened and disappointed at hearing this news, and we have pledged to provide our full support to the investigative authorities."
Segovia told federal investigators in February that she was not involved in the smuggling which she blamed on "a family friend and housekeeper," the complaint states. However, the complaint includes photos she allegedly sent to an accomplice in the scheme including a computer with police union work materials nearby and her signature on a packing slip sent from the police union address.
The criminal complaint alleges Segovia ran her operation via WhatsApp and in a three-year period between January 2020 and March 2023 exchanged hundreds of messages with someone with an India country code.
The messages discussed details for shipping and payment and included hundreds of pictures of tablets, shipping labels, packaging, payment receipts and payment confirmations.
In one instance, the complaint alleges that Segovia used the police union's UPS account to ship a package to a woman in North Carolina and verified it by sending a photo to the supplier.
After being interviewed by federal investigators in February, Segovia is alleged to have continued ordering drugs as recently as three weeks ago. Federal agents in Kentucky intercepted a package containing fentanyl en route to Segovia from China on March 13. The customs declaration stated the contents as "Clock."
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan issued a statement condemning the "incredibly disturbing allegation" against Segovia while noting she was "not a sworn police officer or city employee."
"No one is above the law, regardless of who their employer is. I want to thank U.S. Attorney Ramsey and his colleagues for aggressively pursuing the sources of fentanyl coming into our communities and holding drug-dealers accountable."