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Disturbing details revealed as police union head accused of smuggling fentanyl pleads not guilty

An undated photo of heroin fentanyl pills seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. | DEA via AP

The woman who ran the San Jose Police Officers' Association pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple counts of smuggling fentanyl, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. 

Joanne Segovia allegedly ordered a number of substances that can be used to make fentanyl from suppliers around the world. She disguised the drugs as wedding gifts and toys, authorities said, and brazenly had them sent to the San Jose police union office where she worked on behalf of the city’s roughly 1,700 officers. 

Segovia, who was the association’s executive director, was ordered to come back to court in a month—she was not taken into custody. Her attorney Will Edelman could not be reached for comment. 

Segovia's fentanyl smuggling case has caused an uproar online given her tight connection with law enforcement. The San Jose Police Union has a social media presence where it cites the dangers of the lethal drug. 

“Fentanyl is a serious threat to our community,” began a 2020 tweet from the association's account. 

While Segovia worked for two decades for the association, the city’s police chief pointed out in a statement that she was not a police officer. 

Years of Alleged Smuggling

Homeland Security investigators said they discovered Segovia’s activity late last year in the course of an investigation into shipments of illegal drugs from India to the Bay Area. Segovia had 60 parcels shipped to her home between 2015 and 2023, according to the criminal complaint.

Segovia allegedly used WhatsApp to handle logistics, exchanging messages with someone using a phone with India's country code. The messages continued into this month, even after federal investigators interviewed Segovia in February.

A member of San Jose police during a press conference outside of the San Jose Police Department on March, 17, 2021. | Randy Vazquez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

On March 13, federal agents in Kentucky seized a package that contained fentanyl addressed to Segovia. The complaint said that packages of tramadol addressed to her had been seized by federal border authorities as far back as 2019 

While most of the shipments were sent from her home, according to authorities, one piece of evidence referenced in the filing includes a shipping label with the address of the union she worked for.

Additional details in the complaint appear to reveal that she was either unaware of the issues surrounding her link to the union or didn’t care. 

In one exchange in June 2021 with her alleged supplier, she apologized for not making a shipment: “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.”

In another iPhone email exchange with a supplier, her signature line read: Executive Director of the San Jose Police Officers Association.

In two separate interviews with investigators this year she lied, claiming that she had only ordered supplements and that she worked for the police department rather than the union, authorities said. 

When asked about ordering synthetic opioids online, she said “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

Segovia eventually tried to tell federal investigators that her housekeeper—who was also a family friend— was to blame, saying that suddenly a “light bulb” went off and she realized, “it all leads to her.”

Segovia even said the woman impersonated her on WhatsApp, claiming the housekeeper was able to do so because she “knows so much about me.”

Still, Segovia expressed some remorse when she said that she didn’t want to “throw [this woman] to the wolves,” but rather that she just wanted to be honest. 

Police Connections 

The association has quickly been distancing itself from Segovia—characterizing her in a phone call with The Standard Thursday as more of a "grandmother" who helped run the office. Before later removing her bio from their website, the union’s website and tax filings make it clear that she was part of the inner circle running the organization. 

Segovia, who is married with children and lives in San Jose, has worked for the union since 2003, according to its now scrubbed website. 

As executive director, she made $161,360 and oversaw an organization with a budget of $2.3 million and assets worth $1.3 million, according to the organization's 2020 tax filings. 

Aside from managing their financial and administrative needs, Segovia oversaw the association's charitable foundation. She also managed funerals for police who died on duty and helped their families afterward. 

Segovia, a licensed notary public, according to her bio, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at

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