Homeland Security Accuses Top San Jose Police Union Official of Smuggling Fentanyl into the U.S.

This story has been updated to include a statement from the San Jose Police Officers' Association.

The executive director of the San Jose police officers’ union has been charged with buying and distributing fentanyl for more than eight years according to a complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose by the U.S. Attorney's Office for Northern California.

Joanne Marian Segovia, 64, was charged following a months-long investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, which had been following international shipments of drugs into the Bay Area. The complaint against her, announced by U. S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Homeland Security Investigations on March 29, was filed on March 27 and unsealed the next day.

Segovia is charged specifically with the attempted unlawful importing of valeryl fentanyl.

Fentanyl is described by the Drug Enforcement Administration as “a potent synthetic opioid drug approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.” Federal health officials said more than three-fourths of the 100,000 drug overdose deaths each year in the U.S. are attributable to fentanyl.

The complaint filed this week in San Jose said Segovia used her police union office computers and her personal computers, and on at least one occasion, the union’s UPS account, to order thousands of opioids and other pills to her home and agreed to distribute the drugs elsewhere in the United States. In one of her interviews with federal investigators, she said she worked for the San Jose Police Department, not the officers’ union.

Segovia is on leave from her position with the union, where she has been executive director since 2003.

In a statement in response to questions from San Jose Inside, union spokesperson Tom Saggau said, “Last Friday we were informed by federal authorities that one of our civilian employees was under investigation for distribution of a controlled substance and the POA has been fully and completely cooperating with the federal authorities as they continue their investigation.The POA immediately placed the civilian employee on leave and as is standard procedure cut off all access to the POA.  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 and we have pledged to provide our full support to the investigative authorities.”

“This is an incredibly disturbing allegation,” San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said in a statement to media. “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.”

The police union has been a major contributor and power broker in local political campaigns. Most recently, a political action committee sponsored by the San Jose police union, A Better Way San Jose supporting Chavez for Mayor 2022, raised and spent just over $1 million for Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez in her unsuccessful campaign for San Jose mayor. The Police Officers’ Association’s own PAC raised and spent another $400,000 on the Chavez campaign. The union’s PACs were the second biggest source of money for the Chavez campaign outside of the supervisor’s own campaign committee.

“She's been the grandma of the POA,” Police union President and San Jose police officer Sean Pritchard said of Segovia in an interview with NBC Bay Area. “This is not the person we've known, the person who has worked with fallen officers' families, organized fundraisers for officers' kids.”

The complaint alleges that between October 2015 and January 2023, Segovia had at least 61 shipments mailed to her home, originating from countries including Hong Kong, Hungary, India, and Singapore.

The manifests for these shipments, according to Homeland Security, 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.

Investigators also said that Segovia used encrypted WhatsApp communications to plan the logistics for receiving and sending pill shipments. The complaint describes a three-year period between January 2020 and March 2023 during which Segovia is alleged to have exchanged hundreds of messages with someone using a phone with an India country code. The messages discussed details for shipping and payment of pills and contained hundreds of pictures of tablets, shipping labels, packaging, payment receipts, and payment confirmations.

In the Spring of 2021, Segovia was told by a supplier to send a package to a woman in North Carolina. Segovia then sent this supplier a photograph of a shipment made using the UPS account of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association.

According to the complaint, Segovia continued to order controlled substances even after being interviewed by federal investigators in February 2023. On March 13, 2023, federal agents seized a parcel in Kentucky, containing valeryl fentanyl, addressed to Segovia. The package allegedly originated from China on March 10, 2023 and declared its contents as a “clock.”

In her February interview with Homeland Security, the complaint said Segovia insisted that she had ordered “supplements,” and that there was nothing unusual or “out of the ordinary” about it, the complaint states.

She also allegedly claimed to “work for the police department,” and told the agents that she “had no idea why her name and address were found in the phone of a suspected drug trafficker.” Segovia, who was about to leave for vacation, refused to show agents her CashApp transaction history, the complaint states.

When Segovia returned, she called investigators and left a voicemail saying she “had information that could be helpful,” the complaint continues. She later told them the orders were for “another woman whom she identified as a family friend and housekeeper” who suffered from “a substance abuse disorder,” the complaint says

“[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.

Later in March, Segovia agreed to let agents look at her WhatsApp account. In it, they found messages about ordering prescription drugs and hundreds of images of pills, receipts, and shipping labels—among them, a UPS receipt with Segovia’s signature and a return address of 1151 North Fourth Street, the address of the SJPOA, according to the complaint.

In an October 2021 chat detailed in the complaint, Segovia said, “Sorry, I  had 50 new officers starting today so if I’ve been tied up all morning. I’ll be back on the office within an hour and I’ll take care of all of it! Any news on the soma??”

In a May 2022 WhatsApp conversation, she allegedly said, “I’m so sorry, I’m on a business trip because we had 2 officers that got shot! I should be home tomorrow night so I’ll get them shipped as soon as I can.” Last July, the federal agents said she wrote, “So I need to send you $900 for the orange pills that are on their way, are they on their way?? My [family member] is going on vacation so I want to give her enough to last but that is going to make me short, do you know when they are coming?”

Segovia faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years.


Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. Segovia deserves “due process” without any further public condemnation which would inevitably taint the jury selection process or even the venue for the trial (if there is one).
    David S. Wall

  2. I am surprised that Joanne SEGOVIA was placed on LEAVE; why is she not ARRESTED ? ? ? ? Anyone else moving this much fentanyl would be ARRESTED. Instead of being arrested and processed ASSERTIVELY, she is treated as if this were a minor offense. I would not be surprised if she says she was buying sample fentanyl for the department (to show kids how to recognize and avoid it)

  3. David S. Wall. Are you kidding? Is your position that no media can report on any “alleged” criminal until all appeals are exhausted? Or, only for Segovia is media silence required to prevent a jury pool from being tainted? Trump indicted…all over the news. Hunter Biden not indicted…all over the news. Paltrow is hit by a Dr on the slopes….all over the news and trial is filmed and broadcast live….

    Very interesting position to have.

  4. Mr Logic – You should try logic. Further does not mean shouldn’t have, willful misrepresentation is a con man’s art, not logic.

  5. It would be unusual if Ms. Segovia, the executive director of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, acted alone in her illegal activities. Corruption in police forces has been endemic and it is rarely a one-person operation. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego come to mind, but Fresno and Bakersfield are also strongly implicated in serious corruption (https://fresnoalliance.com/the-long-history-of-police-corruption-in-fresno/;https://www.kget.com/news/local-news/former-bakersfield-police-officer-says-departments-culture-included-corruption-at-the-highest-ranks/). Segovia’s apparently illegal behavior over a period of at least 8 years, while a paid official of the police union, could not have been conducted without the knowledge, indulgence and/or countenance from those around her. Is there a Frank Serpico in the San Jose Police Department, if not in the police union? (https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-serpico-knapp-commission-20211210-dqseuqk4zbapzhe6udszezfd3y-story.html) I doubt it.

  6. David, hanging your hat of the word “further”? Really? As if there is some optimal amount of media attention that is acceptable but any more than optimal is a violation of due process? Wow, that’s some Goldilocks thinking there. How would such a perfect amount of media attention be measured?

    Misrepresentation? Trying to focus on your world “further” instead of your phrase “inevitable tainting” is the con man’s misrepresentation. I don’t know where you went to law school., but you’re pretty off base with what constitutes tainting a jury pool or a basis for venue switching. Under your logic Trump couldn’t be tried anywhere due to media tainting of the jury pool…..


  8. “criminal drug Phyllis Diller ” ?
    California Schools are really FAILING
    Any wonder why H1B Visas are the backbone of the Bay Area Economy?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *