Sex offender arrested after posing as Santa Claus

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LEE'S SUMMIT, MO -- A 50-year-old sex offender meeting and greeting Kansas City area children as Santa Claus has been busted for not registering his employment.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office said 50-year-old James Russell Gray, of Lee's Summit, was working as a local Santa Claus impersonator. The sheriff's office received a confidential tip about Gray posing as Santa.

"Although it is not illegal to play Santa, Gray was arrested and charged with failure to register as a sex offender for not reporting his employment as lawfully required," the Jackson County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

The sheriff's office said Gray did not work at an area mall or other business that caters to children. Gray worked in customer service at a home decor store and would at times interact with customers while dressed up as Santa.

Citing the ongoing investigation and the bad publicity for the business, the sheriff's office declined to release the name of the business where Gray worked.

"He worked in a home decor type store. He dressed as Santa Claus and helped the customers in the store," Sheriff Mike Sharp said. "We have no reason to believe he actually had children sit on his lap."

Gray was booked into the Jackson County Jail on Wednesday after turning himself in. A judge set his bond at $20,000.

"Anyone who poses as Santa Claus who has committed sex crimes against children is a serious concern," Sharp said in a release. "There is zero tolerance when not reporting information as required."

Gray was convicted in 1992 and 1998 in California on sex-related charges including child molestation and indecent exposure.

Sharp said he knows this is upsetting to parents.

"It concerns us that an individual who has been convicted of child molestation and exposure dresses as Santa Claus," Sharp said. "Children are drawn to Santa Claus. It just seems that it would make an easy target for children."

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a sex offender has been arrested after performing as Santa Claus for Kansas City area children.

The Jackson County Sheriff's said in a news release Thursday that the 50-year-old man faces a charge of failing to register as a sex offender for not reporting his employment. The man was booked into jail Wednesday and bond was set at $20,000.

The release said the man was arrested after authorities received a confidential tip.

The sheriff's office told KCTV that the man worked in customer service at a home decor store and would at times interact with customers while dressed up as Santa. The name of the business wasn't released.

The man was convicted in 1992 and 1998 in California on sex-related charges including child molestation and indecent exposure.