The executive director of a US police union has been charged with attempting to illegally import a fentanyl analogue, and has been accused of using the police union’s office to communicate with her suppliers and mail the drugs.
Joanne Segovia, the executive director of the San Jose Police Officers Association in California, was charged with attempt to unlawfully import valeryl fentanyl, a variation of the powerful synthetic opioid, and faces up to 20 years in prison, the justice department said in a statement on Wednesday.
Between 2015 and 2023, Segovia allegedly 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 justice department said.
At least one package of drugs, in 2021, was sent using the UPS account of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, according to a photograph of the shipment, according to the criminal complaint against Segovia.
The packages of controlled drugs were allegedly labeled “Wedding Party Favors”, “Gift Makeup” or “Chocolate and Sweets”, prosecutors said.
Segovia was charged “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 justice department said.
As fentanyl-related overdose deaths rise across the United States, the source of illegal opioids has become a political flashpoint. Many Americans incorrectly believe that most fentanyl is being smuggled into the United States by migrants in unauthorized border crossings, a talking point of Republican politicians like Ron DeSantis.
Law enforcement agencies in multiple states, including California and Florida have also been criticized by medical experts for spreading misinformation about the dangers of touching fentanyl, after they shared videos of officers allegedly collapsing after skin contact with the drug.
In fact, experts say, illegal opioids most often enter the United States at legal ports of entry. “Drug traffickers deal with professionals, not amateurs, and they prefer US citizens,” Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told PolitiFact in 2022.
An archived version of the San Jose police union’s website from late last year said that Segovia, 64, had worked for the union since 2003, and that “she maintains control over financial and administrative matters associated with the SJPOA, as well as the SJPOA Charitable Foundation”. It also noted that she “works with Concerns of Police Survivors (Cops) in line of duty deaths”.
In one of the messages about pill shipments she allegedly exchanged with a person using a phone number based in India, Segovia wrote, “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,” according to the criminal complaint.
Her name is no longer listed among the staff members on the San Jose police union’s website.
The union was informed of the federal investigation last Friday, and Segovia, one of the group’s “civilian employees”, was “immediately” placed on leave, union spokesperson Tom Saggau said in a statement.
The union has been “fully and completely cooperating” with federal authorities in the investigation, and the spokesperson said that “no additional individual at the POA is involved or had prior knowledge of the alleged acts”.
“The board of directors is saddened and disappointed at hearing this news,” Saggau said.
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