SHERIFF'S CORNER: Bad Santa stories

Lake County Sheriff Rich Martin

Lake County Sheriff Rich Martin

Courtesy photo

Growing up poor was never fun until it came to Christmas Day. I was always hoping to get a pair of name brand shoes instead of the "pleathers" bought from K-Mart. Or maybe an actual pair of Guess jeans, versus a pair of Wrangler's where your Aunt had to sew the Guess triangle on the rear pocket from an old pair.

I remember one year when my parents gave me the opportunity to get the gift I wanted, which I asked for the original Optimus Prime Transformer, which they ordered from the Sears catalog. Unfortunately, they told me that this was the only gift I would get from them because it cost $25. I guess beer can deposits were running low that holiday season.

Grandma always made Christmas special with all the gifts, especially the ones left out from Santa on the living room floor. You would wake up to an electric slot car track or an electric train set. The only exception to this was on Christmas Eve when Grandma would let you open one gift. It never mattered on the size or shape, or what the box sounded like when I shook it...I always managed to pick the long underwear that Grandma gifted to me every year.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," keeping with the holiday spirit, I bring you "Santas" who were arrested or charged with crimes.

G-String Santa: On Christmas Day in 2007, a boozed-up St. Nick imposter was apprehended for taking a wasted joyride down to a theater in Hollywood. Though the guy might've been rocking a Santa hat, those who got a bit closer quickly noticed that in place of the typical jolly red suit was a purple G-string (topped off with a lacy red camisole). After tests showed that the man's blood-alcohol levels were above the legal limit, he was taken to jail before being released on $5,000 bail. However, to ease any worries you might have about Santa's true identity, an officer from the police department helpfully volunteered, "We are pretty sure this is not the real Santa Claus."

Counterfeit Santa: Santa did a little Christmas shopping in South Florida, but police said he tried to pay with a fake $100 bill. Jaret Santa, who bears the name of the North Pole's most famous resident, allegedly tried to swap the counterfeit bill for a $25 T.G.I. Friday's gift card and change last Wednesday, according to the Boynton Beach Police Department. Santa was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on a charge of possessing a forged instrument. His bond was set at $3,000.

Shooting Santa: A man dressed up as Santa was at a Detroit gas station early Sunday morning when he allegedly shot two 29-year-old men. “Apparently, there was an argument over Santa’s girlfriend — Mrs. Claus,” a Detroit police officer told the Detroit News. “One of the victims ran back to his car, and the guy dressed as Santa Claus must’ve thought he was going to get a gun because he started shooting.” Two off-duty cops chased Santa on foot. Police said the two victims are expected to recover.

Intruder Santa: In 2014, a man dressed in a Santa suit and wearing zombie make-up, wandered into a house in St. Paul, Minnesota, while intoxicated, scaring two teenage residents who were home alone. The drunk 21-year-old then vomited on himself and fell asleep on the couch. The Santa was arrested for trespassing. He must have come in through the chimney.

Protest Santa: In 2019, police arrested Santa about an hour after he arrived, for refusing to leave unless Charmin executives came out to accept their bad tidings. As he was whisked away in handcuffs, Santa could be heard “Ho, Ho, Ho-ing” tearfully as he lamented Procter & Gamble’s policy of refusing to use recycled content in its Charmin toilet paper, relying instead on fiber from fresh-cut trees from endangered forests like the Boreal Forest in Canada — critical habitat for caribou, which are also called reindeer. To the tune of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” the carolers sang: “You better watch out, you better not cry, the reindeer have lost their home, and here’s why: Charmin cuts the forest down. They’re cutting down trees, grinding them up, destroying reindeer homes, so you can wipe your butt. Charmin cuts the forest down.”

Santa with Warrant: A man dressed as Santa Claus ringing the bell for the Salvation Army was arrested Christmas Eve for an outstanding warrant. A 40-year-old man was arrested outside Price Chopper in Latham after a Colonie police officer recognized him as having an outstanding warrant from Colonie Court for failing to appear on an earlier charge of Patronizing a Prostitute. That charge stemmed from an incident in January 2018. Agrusti told police he was being paid by the Salvation Army to ring the bell. After he was booked by police, they gave him an appearance ticket and drove him back to Price Chopper to resume his duties.

Mean Santa: A mall Santa in Maine was fired in 2012 because he kept making kids cry. Parents flooded the mall’s Facebook with complaints like, “He made my 11-year-old son cry — basically told him he was being greedy.” One parent even said Santa put his hands across his lap so [my daughter] couldn’t even sit on his lap.

Enabling Santa: Police in Berlin reported a man dressed as Santa was offering people “shots of alcohol in a paper cup” at a local Christmas market. One 15-year-old girl accepted, immediately started puking, and was rushed to the hospital where a blood test showed the drink had been doused. Eight others experienced similar incidents.

Sex Offender Santa: Robert Bruce Kendal showed up to Rose Place Park on Tuesday in Santa Claus’ iconic red suit, black boots and fake white beard. He thought he was 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. 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.

High-speed Santa: Maine State Police say they arrested a driver who called himself Santa Claus following a nearly 50-mile chase Tuesday. They learned his Jeep was stolen from New Hampshire. Police said the chase started in Clinton and reached 112 miles an hour before spike strips were deployed in Newburgh. The Jeep continued north on Interstate 95 to Bangor, where a 50-year-old man of Goffstown, New Hampshire, was arrested. 

Green Santa: A 57-year-old Monterey Peninsula man was arrested in January 2015 after police say he handed out marijuana to customers and staff at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Seaside. The Monterey County Herald reported that Lange claimed to be Santa Claus and said the pot was a gift to the recipients, according to a press release from the Seaside Police Department. About 4 p.m., the man was allegedly seen wrapping marijuana in napkins and handing it out to people inside the restaurant. The man also allegedly gave one employee a napkin filled with pot, put cannabis in the tip jar, and told diners that “he was Santa and that he had a gift for them,” authorities said.

Inappropriate Santa: A 62 year old Massachusetts mall Santa was arrested on assault and battery charges last year after pinching an 18-year-old elf’s butt. When cops questioned him, the man claimed, “I did not touch that woman.” A judge ordered the man not to dress up as Santa any more that holiday season.

Imposter Santa: Police ended up seeing double when they were called to a Fort Wayne, Indiana, McDonald’s this month to remove an unwanted Santa who was causing a “disturbance.” When they arrived, there were two Santas, though the manager told officers that one had been hired. The other was “inviting children to sit on his lap, just like the other one.” When police asked for his name, he responded “Santa Claus.”

Bank Robber Santa: Cisco Texas, December 23, 1927. Marshall Ratliff was one of four men who dressed as Santa and held up the First National Bank. The Santa Claus bank robbery led to the largest manhunt ever seen in the state. They got away with $12,000 but were eventually caught.

Party Santa: Osceola County, Florida. December 23, 2012. Mike Busey, aka the "King of Rock and Roll Debauchery," was arrested during a house party at his Florida home he calls the "Sausage Castle." An undercover police officer paid the $20 cover charge for "Mike Busey's End of the World Sexy Santa Holiday B-Day" inside, he saw liquor being sold without a license. Busey was booked and jailed, but even after he was released, he tweeted "Last Night I Got Arrested For Throwing A EPIC Party! I Never Had Some Much Being Arrested!"

— This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. Topics covered are for educational and informational purposes only. As needed, excerpts from other articles are used for reference and/or content. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you may always email me your questions to rmartin@co.lake.mi.us.