A California man who has held himself out as a mentor to felons after his 1999 murder conviction was overturned in 2015 has been using his offices in downtown Sacramento as fronts for drug-dealing in shipping narcotics to conspirators in Western Pennsylvania, according to federal agents.

Tio Sessoms appeared in federal court in Pittsburgh on Sept. 15 and has since been committed to the Eastern District of California to face federal drug distribution charges following an investigation involving drug shipments to Pittsburgh monitored by U.S. postal inspectors.

Sessoms, who has described himself as a “force for change,” operates a consulting firm in Sacramento called T. Rind Consulting and works for a re-entry program called the Exodus Project.

He also says he’s the co-founder of “Empowering Pops,” which he says was set up to help men be better fathers.

But postal inspectors say he’s a drug dealer.

In an affidavit, inspectors said Sessoms has been using his employment and community involvement in California, including his workplaces, to “conceal his drug trafficking activities” in mailing drugs to Pennsylvania using his Sacramento offices as return addresses. Investigators said he had also mailed and sold fentanyl to undercover law officers in California in July and August.

Postal inspectors said law officers in Western Pennsylvania identified Sessoms as a drug supplier based on recorded phone calls he made to an inmate in Pennsylvania jailed on pending drug charges. Since November 2022, agents said, Sessoms had been exchanging texts with an informant in which he offered to sell and ship drugs through the mail, according to the affidavit.

Sessoms discussed selling fentanyl, cocaine, pills and methamphetamine, agents said.

According to the affidavit, he relied on various techniques to avoid detection, including referring to himself in the third person or by an alias when discussing drug deals.

In March of this year, inspectors intercepted a parcel Sessoms mailed to Pennsylvania using a return address of Sessoms’ office on H Street in Sacramento. Investigators said he set up the deal by phone with the informant. The package contained 150 grams of meth.

In July, Sessoms discussed drugs with the informant, indicating he had “3 zips ready to go” — a zip refers to an ounce of drugs. The informant sent Sessoms an address in Pennsylvania for the shipment. On July 17, agents conducted surveillance on Sessoms as he left his address in the gated community of Elk Grove, California, and headed to a post office, where he mailed a parcel bound for an address in Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood.

Inspectors seized the parcel while others tracked him to the Exodus Project office, which he had used as a return address. The package was found to contain fentanyl.

Last month, inspectors said, Sessoms directed an undercover agent who had been introduced to him by the informant to mail him $2,500 for another drug deal he arranged using a different cellphone. He told the undercover to send the money to his office, although he used a different name.

Sessoms then made a fentanyl deal with the undercover at a downtown Sacramento hotel on Aug. 28, agents said.

He was not arrested at that time, but it’s not clear when or where he was taken into custody in Western Pennsylvania.

Sessoms was one of three men convicted in 1999 of killing a Sacramento minister and gay rights advocate, Edward Sherriff, who had been bound and stabbed repeatedly in his mobile home, according to the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

His conviction was overturned in 2015 on the grounds that when he asked for a lawyer after his arrest, police told him that a lawyer would “get in the way.” After the conviction was vacated, Sessoms pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and burglary, according to the Bee.

On his LinkedIn page, Sessoms said he was wrongly convicted and now wants to be a “force for change” for others trying to navigate the criminal justice system.

As a consultant, he said, he has had the chance to “visit some of the same prisons that once held me.”

He’s likely now to end up in a prison he hasn’t seen before — a federal one.

If he’s convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and could get life.

Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at jtorsteno@gmail.com.

Torsten Ove

Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at jtorsteno@gmail.com.