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Deputies arrest sex offender ‘Santa Bob’ after he booked gigs to play Ole St. Nick at parties

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A registered sex offender who said he has been dressing as Santa Claus-for-hire for 30 years was arrested Tuesday after failing to meet offender reporting requirements, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

An anonymous tip led deputies to a Craigslist ad by Robert Bruce Kendal, a sex offender who advertised Santa Claus appearances at Christmas events and parties, according to an arrest affidavit.

Photos of Kendal on the Craigslist ad showed him in a Santa costume, and one showed a child sitting on his lap, the affidavit shows. Kendal was convicted on a sexual battery charge involving a child younger than 12 in 1993, according to court records.

An undercover deputy responded to Kendal’s Craigslist ad Monday, offering to pay $80 for his appearance as Santa at an office Christmas party Tuesday.

When Kendal arrived at the address the deputy provided, clad in full Santa costume with a red suit, black boots and fake white beard, he was handcuffed by deputies, the affidavit shows.

Kendal told authorities he didn’t know he had to report his employment as a Santa Claus-for-hire and the email address he used to communicate with clients as part of his sex offender paperwork, according to the affidavit.

He told authorities he has been booking private events for money since 2009, according to the affidavit.

Kendel was taken to the Orange County Jail, where he remains held on a $2,000 bond.

Tess Sheets can be reached at tsheets@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5020. Twitter: @sheets_tess

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