DRACUT, Mass. — Boston 25 was tipped off about a Facebook post on the Uniquely Dracut page to hire 80-year-old Joseph Bass as a Santa Claus this holiday season. What’s missing in the post is that Bass is a registered Level 2 sex offender, found guilty in Palm Beach, Florida in 2007 for sending a minor harmful information.
We asked Bass himself. ‘So you think it’s alright to dress up as a Santa and be near children?” said Boston 25 reporter John Monahan.
“I have grandchildren, I love children. I’ve never harmed a child in my life,” Bass said.
Bass is registered in Florida as a sex offender and it’s easy to find online. But in Massachusetts, we had to file a public records request to see that he was registered. Dracut Police told Boston 25 that’s because any Level 2 offender found guilty before 2013 is not accessible to the public.
Wendy Murphy is a victim’s advocate. She tells Boston 25 that Level 2s, like Bass, are a big problem in Massachusetts because they are hard to find.
“This is a real hole in the system. And the danger is that sex offenders who are Level 2s know about it and they take advantage of it,” Murphy said.
We asked Bass again about hiring himself out as a Santa this year.
“So, will you continue to dress up as a Santa Claus then?” Monahan inquired.
“If people want me to it’s their prerogative,” Bass said.
“Do you think they should know you’re listed in the sex offender registry?” Monahan asked.
“Well, I guess they do now,” Bass said.
Murphy says that Level 2 offenders are not required to stay away from children.
“Just because you’re a Level 2 sex offender doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be near children. In other words, no court has ordered you to stay away from children,” Murphy said.
Bass then told us the charges were unfair.
“So, you think the charges are spurious?” Monahan said.
“I do,” Bass said.
“Even though you were found guilty?” Monahan said.
“That was a plea because I was told it would cost an enormous amount to fight something,” Bass said.
Dracut Police are warning people to be careful when hiring services online.
“Be diligent and do your homework on who the folks are if you can that you’re purchasing from, what types of services they are, specifically if they’re coming to your home or a location,” said Peter Bartlett who is the Dracut Police Chief.
But it’s important to say that Bass’ post on FaceBook is not illegal. He can hire himself out as a Santa and be around children despite being a Level 2 sex offender. It’s up to parents to cross-check information. Your local police department will have access to more information on offenders and can help people interested in doing a background check.
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