Salvage Santa remains positive after arrest of burglary suspects

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Our local Santa's added some names on his naughty list this year.

Several toys and other items were stolen from his storage unit but Salvage Santa is looking to replace them. (WJHG/WECP)

Many people know Mike Jones as Salvage Santa, a man who spreads holiday cheer every Christmas by giving away free bikes and toys to local kids in need during the holidays. However, recently he hasn't had much to cheer about. Several of his bikes were stolen from his storage unit.

Bay County Sheriff's Officials arrested Christopher Fernandes, 40, Wednesday after getting a tip he stole the bikes.

"Obviously, this fella had a building in the same complex that I did and obviously saw me and saw I had that stuff in there because it's a brand new building to me. I've only had that building for a few months," said Jones.

Deputies then arrested John Cemer and Cassidy Hall Thursday for their alleged involvement with the theft. Both Cemer and Hall are charged with accessory after the fact.

Officials say deputies also found several bikes buried in what they believe is Fernandes' backyard. They dug up five bikes with an excavator Thursday. Jones said he can now move on.

"It brings closure for me. I don't have to be looking over my shoulder. I don't have to worry about him breaking in there again," said Jones.

Jones said only a few of the 30 bikes recovered are salvageable. He also said several boxes filled with more than 150 legos, basketballs and other toys were stolen from his property. He said some the stolen gifts also helps Early Education and Care Inc. qualify for federal grant money.

"When they get that dollar for dollar match that money is used for early intervention, HeadStart for our little babies under 4 years old and it's also used for subsidized daycare for our working parents who can qualify for that money," said Jones.

Jones said the bikes alone will cost around $3,000 to replace, but he plans to use donations to buy new toys and bikes to continue his mission to spread cheer during the holidays.

Jones said he wants the people involved to pay him back for the items they stole after they serve their sentences if found guilty. He say he would use the money to help local children in need.

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