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WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. - A man hired to play the Easter Bunny at Westmoreland Mall has been fired after the company who hired him learned he is a registered sex offender.
In a statement from Cherry Hill Photo, the company that operates the Easter Bunny promotion at the mall, said the man, identified as Michael Jacobs, of Jeannette, had portrayed the costumed character at the mall for 12 hours before it was determined that he had a criminal record.
Court records showed that Jacobs was convicted in the sexual assault of a minor twice.
In one of those cases, Jacobs was convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19, according to court papers. The court papers also indicated that Jacobs is allowed around children, as long as he is not left alone with them.
As a result of his two convictions, Jacobs is required to register as a Megan’s Law offender.
Court records also showed that Jacobs was charged in 2010 with the rape and assault of a girl younger than 13, but the case was later dismissed.
Parents who spoke with Channel 11 News Friday said the whole story made them sick.
“It's unbelievable something like this could slip by. You think the company would be a little bit more thorough in their work,” said Natalie Connors.
Below is the full statement from Cherry Hill Photo President Ed Warchol:
“It has been determined that an individual portraying the Easter Bunny costumed character for 12 hours at the Mall had a prior criminal record.
“An employee of Cherry Hill Photo who does the local hiring of the Mall Easter Bunny staff violated strict company guidelines and permitted a person to portray the Easter Bunny at the mall without first sending in the appropriate information to the corporate office for approval. This corporate approval of all new hires is required by Cherry Hill Photo in order to ascertain the suitability of an employee which includes a comprehensive background report.
“The person playing the Easter Bunny was immediately terminated and the local manager who does the hiring was suspended pending the completion of our investigation.
“No incidents of any inappropriate behavior were reported and Cherry Hill is cooperating with authorities while conducting its own internal investigation.
“Cherry Hill Photo recognizes the importance of obtaining background checks and its stringent hiring guidelines have been in place for over 20 years.”