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Man facing child porn charges worked as Santa

Posted June 1, 2015
Updated June 3, 2015

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— A Raleigh man arrested Saturday on child pornography charges worked as a Santa Claus for hire under the name "Santa Lee Jones."

Leander Dewey Jones, 63, of 2931 Brentwood Road, is charged with 12 counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. District Judge Jacqueline Brewer increased his bond from $600,000 to $1 million on Monday after hearing details of the case from prosecutors.

A computer sales and repair shop initially found suspected child pornography on Jones' computer and police, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger said. Police then searched the computer and found files showing naked girls ages 6 to 10 in provocative positions and found more explicit photos on USB drives and discs in his home, Zellinger said.

The FBI has taken over investigation of the case because of the amount of pornography uncovered, he said.

A family member also has asked that authorities evaluate her young children after police found a small camera hidden in the bathroom of Jones' home.

Investigators also found business cards listing Jones as Santa Claus and showing him in a Santa costume. Zellinger said Jones also worked as a magician and played the role of a pirate for parties and other events.

Jones is a member of the Triangle Santa Buddies organization, according to the group's founder, Al Capehart. The group's website said he joined last year.

"I have no comment at this time. We need to know more," Capehart said Monday.

A woman who answered the door at Jones' home also declined to comment.

Three years ago, John Thomas Peters, another member of Triangle Santa Buddies, was charged with soliciting teen girls online for sex. He pleaded guilty in October 2012 to second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and soliciting sex by computer and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Capehart said Triangle Santa Buddies doesn't perform background checks on its members.

Some area malls told WRAL News on Monday that they do screen people who work as Santa during the holiday season. However, a background check would have found nothing on Jones, as he has no prior criminal record.

6 Comments

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  • Shannon Settles Jun 3, 2015
    user avatar

    The man NEVER WORKED as Santa anywhere, according to his wife. No mall, nothing. He apparently was a pirate and magician, and wanted to start offering Santa visits, but he had just bought his suit and joined the Triangle Santa Buddies in order to learn the ropes. So I am inordinately relieved that he was never exposed to the numbers of children that a mall gig would have allowed.

  • Roger Way Jun 2, 2015
    user avatar

    Please don't automatically fault all family performers because of a shameful few. The vast majority of the Triangle's Santa's Helpers and children's entertainers are safe and above board. Still, it never hurts to err on the side of caution. Background checks don't always work, as with this fellow. They give a false sense of security.

    Always leave at least two adults in the room with them at ALL times. Be alert for inappropriate touches. The pros who care will go above and beyond to protect your trust. Trust your child - if they are uncomfortable with a person, they will show it.

    Each child is a treasure to be cherished, entertained, and protected. Your best family entertainers understand and support that fact.

  • Dona Hill Jun 2, 2015
    user avatar

    These Santa's of which one was John Peters also make home visits at Christmas time. I bought John Peters services for a 30 minute visit at my home for Christmas at a non profit auction. Try putting this in perspective when Santa visited in your home, had family photos taken by a photographer with the children and grandchildren, and try to figure out how to process? I was totally shocked after the arrest because our Santa sent emails with a suggestion sheet to fill out and even asked if it was okay if the child were to take him to his or her bedroom to show their room. Thankfully, it was a lovely night and we did all the pictures on the front porch which was decorated for Christmas. Even my sweet Mom dressed up like Ms. Claus.

  • Kenneth Brewer Jun 2, 2015
    user avatar

    So WRAL, you don't know which malls hired him? Or you do know but decline to report it because Triangle Santa Buddies is littler and easier to pick on? The malls should be responsible for investigating any man who comes in such close physical contact with their customers' children. Mall security undergoes pre-employment background checks and psych tests but the Santas are subcontractors, so the malls are not responsible, right?

  • Tomma Hargraves Jun 1, 2015
    user avatar

    This is sad and difficult for those wonderful men who are great and caring Santas... Please don't judge all by these creepy men.

  • Tony Spicchiali Jun 1, 2015
    user avatar

    ho ho ho?