A Mayflower Police Department online “sting” investigation has resulted in the arrest of a shopping mall Santa Claus on suspicion of Internet stalking of a child.

James Gray Daniel, 50, of 95 Burns Road, Scott, Ark. (just southeast of Little Rock), allegedly made contact via the online Yahoo! Messenger service with a person presenting themselves as a 13-year-old Mayflower girl just before 1 p.m. on May 22, and proceeded to “solicit the victim for sex and arranged to meet her in Mayflower later on the same day,” according to a news release from Mayflower PD.

At about 2:45 that afternoon, Daniel arrived at the prearranged meeting spot, where he was arrested by Mayflower PD officers. Daniel was allegedly in possession of printed directions to the meeting spot. 

During the arrest and questioning process, Daniel told officers that he had portrayed Santa Claus at McCain Mall “for several years,” according to the news release.

The sting operation was conducted by Investigator Chuck Barker of Mayflower PD, and further investigation is underway regarding information that could lead to the identification of other victims. 

According to the news release, those conducting Mayflower PD’s online investigations have noticed a “spike” in this type of online criminal activity, and will be committing extra man-hours to investigate these cases.

“We intend to continue with our efforts and expect more cases to develop,” the news release states.

The Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office, Conway Police Department, Greenbrier Police Department and Vilonia Police Department all conduct similar online investigations, and anyone suspecting that a child may be conversing with a sexual predator is urged to contact law enforcement.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by e-mail at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1238. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)