Santa impersonator faces new charge

John Peters (Image courtesy Wake County Sheriff's Office)
March 14, 2012 4:13:47 PM PDT
A Cary man who often portrays Santa Claus faces a new charge.

Seventy-year-old John Peters, who is also known as "Santa John," was first arrested in January after police say he tried to get an Apex teenager to pose for nude photos. Now, prosecutors say a new 13-year-old victim has come forward.

Peters - who worked as a Santa impersonator at private and corporate events before his arrest - is a well-known figure in southern Wake County and is often seen driving his red convertible sports car with the personalized plate "SANTACAR."

He first came to the attention of Apex police in December when investigators say he contacted a 15-year-old girl through Facebook after finding her on a modeling site. Despite her age being clearly written on the site, Peters allegedly asked about modeling in lingerie, and the girl's mother called police.

Detectives instructed the girl to continue corresponding with Peters online, and he allegedly sent her pornographic images and asked to set up a photography session to take sexually explicit pictures.

Officers were waiting when he showed up for a meeting with the girl at a restaurant in January. According to search warrants, police found sex toys, condoms, ropes, and KY Jelly along with photography equipment in his car.

He was charged with first-degree sexual exploitation, dissemination of pornography to minors under the age of 16, and solicitation of a child by computer to commit an unlawful sexual act.

In court Wednesday, Peters had a much different appearance. He had shaved his white beard. Prosecutors said a 13-year-old girl now alleges she met Peters at the YMCA in Wakefield last October. He faces a new charge of solicitation of a child by computer, and prosecutors said there may be other victims.

"We are looking into some potential for other offenses as well as the potential for other victims," said Assistant DA Adam Moyers.

Peters' bond was lowered earlier this month from $600,000 to $100,000 and he was ordered to remain under house arrest with no access to computers and only supervised visits with his grandchildren. In court Wednesday, the magistrate judge tacked on an additional $30,000 in bond. Peters bonded out before noon.

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