Florida sex offender arrested after trying to play Santa Claus, deputies say

Investigators: Robert Kendel, 48, advertised services on Craigslist

Robert Kendel, a registered sex offender, was arrested after posting an online ad to play Santa Claus. (Orange County Sheriff's Office)

ORLANDO, Fla. – A Florida sex offender was arrested Tuesday after posting an online ad to play Santa Claus, deputies said.

Robert Bruce Kendel, 48, posted an ad on Craigslist offering to be paid to dress up as Santa for Christmas parties, according to investigators. The ad included a photo of Kendel with a child on his lap, an arrest report said.

According to records, Kendel was found guilty in 1993 of sexual battery against a child under 12 years old.

Deputies said that the job itself is not what got Kendal in trouble. He served time in prison and is no longer on probation, which means it was legal for him to work with children, WFTV reports.

Kendal was required to list his Santa job as employment as part of his sex offender registration, which he failed to do, officials said.

Undercover agents contacted Kendel on Craigslist and asked him to meet at a park for a corporate picnic, Orange County officials said. Investigators cleared the park of children, and waited for Kendal to show up.

Deputies said Kendal showed up in a Santa suit. The undercover agents exchanged money with him before taking him into custody. Officials said an anonymous tip led to his arrest.

 Kendal told deputies he'd been playing Santa for 33 years.

         "He's done HOAs, he's done birthday parties," Sgt. Rich Mankewich told WFTV. "We, the sexual offenders squad, don't want him to have this kind of job, but there's really not much we can do about it."           

Kendal faces charges related to violating the terms of his sex offender registry, officials said. His bond was set at $2,000. 

Watch WFTV's report below:

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