The FBI has re-arrested a former Haines resident nearly a year after he was arrested at Chilkat Lake and extradited to Idaho on child pornography and sexual abuse charges. Now, federal agents want to bring him back to Alaska to face new federal charges.
Shortly after 39-year-old Christopher Panagiotou-Scigliano was arrested in Haines last November, the Chilkat Valley News spoke with his Chilkat Lake neighbors, who said he and his wife lived in a trailer at the Covenant Life center before moving to a property at the lake.
Federal court documents allege that while he lived at Chilkat Lake, Panagiotou-Scigliano recruited minors to visit Haines that he had previously groomed for exploitation while living in Idaho. Prosecutors also say they seized his cell phone and that it contains evidence of his sexual abuse of at least one of those minors.
Investigators also say they have a laptop containing more images and videos of child exploitation that were downloaded from the internet.
Two adults and one minor approached law enforcement in Idaho to discuss alleged abuse by Panagiotou-Scigliano early last year. Their families lived off-grid and participated in organic farming and church services with the suspect. Investigators say the three young men wanted to make sure Panagiotou-Scigliano didn’t continue his pattern of abuse.
The investigation conducted by the Bonner County Sheriff’s Department in Idaho wrapped up last September. Haines police, assisted by a Bonner County detective, arrested Panagiotou-Scigliano without incident on his property at Chilkat Lake.
Haines Police Chief Heath Scott says there are still some loose ends to his department’s investigation into the suspect’s activities over the five years while he was in Haines.
“I would say this is somewhat (of) a complex investigation dealing with multiple regions, one being Bonner County, Idaho, the second being Haines, Alaska, and then the third being the FBI, from a more federal side. We are very close to completing that investigation and submitting our findings to our district attorney out of Juneau,” said Scott.
Panagiotou-Scigliano was transferred from Haines to Lemon Creek Correctional facility in Juneau.
While in custody he petitioned the court to allow him to be released into a third-party custody arrangement due to COVID-19 concerns. The defense asked that he be given an electronic location monitor and be remanded into the custody of Benjamin Herndon, a member of the Covenant Life center in Haines. He cited close ties to the religious community where he attended church and ate meals.
His request was denied.
Panagiotou-Scigliano was then extradited to Idaho to face state charges of child exploitation last November. About five months later, an Idaho judge ordered him released on $105,000 bond into the custody of Rick Phegley. As a condition of his release, he wore a location monitor and had to be constantly supervised.
When federal agents learned that Panagiotou-Scigliano was out of jail, they moved ahead quickly with their investigation and re-arrested him at the residence he was confined to on July 23, arguing he’s a serial predator. As of Aug. 19, he was being detained in Idaho by U.S. Marshals, who plan to bring him back to Alaska to face federal charges brought by the U.S. Attorneys’ office in Anchorage.
On July 28, Panagiotou-Scigliano’s defense attorney made yet another plea to have his client remanded to third-party custody. It’s the same chaperone Panagiotou-Scigliano was released to in Idaho, Rick Phegley. Phegley has offered up his condominium in Las Vegas, Nevada for a place to stay while Panagiotou-Scigliano awaits trial.
Calls and emails to his Anchorage attorney John Cashion were not returned.
However, according to Bonner County investigators, the Idaho judge has issued a no-bail bench warrant because Panagiotou-Scigliano missed a recent court appearance in Idaho while in federal custody. That means he likely won’t be released to house arrest without being re-arrested in Bonner County.
Investigators in Idaho say they worry that because Panagiotou-Scigliano has a long history of living off-grid, he’s a flight risk.
Corrine Smith contributed additional reporting.
If you or someone you know is a victim of child exploitation, you can find help at:
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 1-800-843-5678
- The S.A.F.E. Child Advocacy Center in Juneau 907-463-6157.
- The Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at 907-586-3650
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673)
- STAR Alaska’s 24-hour crisis line at 907-276-7273 or its toll-free crisis line at 800-478-8999