LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — A Disney worker who plays the Beast character from "Beauty and the Beast" was held in jail overnight on 51 counts of possessing child pornography.
Matthew Wendland, 20, was arrested on Thursday night, WESH 2 News reported.
On Friday, he posted $8,500 bond and was released from jail.
Sex crimes detectives said an anonymous tip led them to his apartment, where they found a suitcase full of child pornography that was downloaded from the Internet.
Police said some of the pictures included children as young as 3 involved in sex acts."It’s obviously concerning that anyone would download pictures like this," said Sgt. Rich Mankewich of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. "I viewed the pictures myself, and it’s extremely disturbing looking at these."
Detectives stressed that they don’t believe Wendland ever molested or violated any children."
The evidence leads us to believe right now that he didn’t act out on any of these urges that he has. He just does it all by looking at pictures," Mankewich said.
Wendland also occasionally portrays Goofy at Walt Disney World.Disney said Wendland was hired last July and his background check came back clean."
The alleged behavior is something that’s just not tolerated. We feel we’ve taken the appropriate action by suspending him without pay," a Disney spokeswoman said.
Investigators said Wendland could face additional charges. They said they plan to have a doctor look at the confiscated items to determine if there are more children in the photos.
Wendland isn’t the first character player to be arrested in connection with an alleged sex crime. In 2004, a 13-year-old and her mother said they were groped by Tigger.
Michael Chartrand, 38, was arrested in the case, and a jury later acquitted him.
More recently, Disney employee Michael Fedelem, who also played Tigger, was suspended after a family claimed he hit their teenage son. Fedelmen said he was reacting to the teen yanking on his costume.