ORANGE COUNTY, FL (RNN) - Robert Bruce Kendal showed up to Rose Place Park Tuesday in Santa Claus’ iconic red suit, black boots and fake white beard.
He thought he was a playing Ole St. Nick for a company’s Christmas party.
He left in handcuffs. Now, the 48-year-old registered sex offender is in the Orange County Jail on a $2,000 bond.
Court records reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel revealed that Kendal was convicted in 1993 of sexual battery involving a child younger than 12.
Even so, deputies say Kendal told them he’d been Santa-for-hire for 30 years. They arrested him for failing to meet offender reporting requirements, specifically not listing his Santa Claus job or online identifiers.
Thanks to an anonymous tip, deputies said they discovered Kendal’s Craigslist ad in which he used the name “Santa Bob” to advertise his services as a professional Santa.
The ad even includes a photo of a child on his lap.
According to WFTV, Sgt. Rich Mankewich contacted Kendal on Craigslist and offered to pay him $80 for an appearance at the park.
Deputies cleared the park of children before Kendal arrived. He was arrested on the spot.
“He said he’s been [playing Santa] for 33 years,” Mankewich said. “He’s done HOAs, he’s done birthday parties.”
Even so, Kendal’s wife told local media she didn’t believe there was need for concern about his work as Santa Claus
“He’s off probation. He’s off court files. He served his time in prison,” said Kim Kendel, who added that her husband is just trying to earn extra money for their family over the holidays.
Deputies are hoping this case teaches people to conduct thorough background checks before hiring people for costume jobs, especially if it involves children.
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