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July 14, 2009 06:02 PM

Tea Pastor's History Includes Fraud, Forgery


More information is emerging about 42-year-old Joe Panaia Jr., of Tea, and his criminal past.


In 1999, Joe Panaia was arrested after a woman complained he made sexual contact without her consent. Those charges were later dropped, but that didn't end Panaia's history on the wrong side of the law.

In November 2001, court documents explain how Panaia was accused of exposing himself to a co-worker at Good Samaritan Luther Manor in Sioux Falls. They say he grabbed a woman's bottom, then later pulled down his pants and exposed his genitals. The document says Panaia remarked, "wouldn't that be funny if you turned me in for sexual harrassment?" He later pleaded guilty to indecent exposure.

Panaia later was arrested for two counts of welfare fraud. Between May 2003 and January 2004, court records say Panaia fraudulently received food stamp benefits from the state.

He was also accused of taking Medicaid benefits when he shouldn't have but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and spent a handful of days in jail.

In April 2007, Panaia pleaded guilty to forgery, after making unauthorized charges on the LifeLight Communications account by forging an employee's name at Campbell Supply stores. The documents say Panaia bought clothes, two pairs of shoes, and a power tool set. That power tool set was later found at a Sioux Falls pawn shop.

Panaia admitted his guilt and was put on probation for 18 months.
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