WINTER HAVEN - The mother of the youth hockey coach accused of soliciting bay area teens through Facebook, says her son was always really good with kids.
Tony Desilva, 41, is charged with sexting and trying to lure two 16-year-old boys from Polk County. Desilva lives in Acushnet, Massachusetts.
"I just can't believe it. I haven't slept in two days," Gladys Desilva told the ABC affiliate in Boston. "The kids all liked him."
Earlier in the day, Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters at a news conference that the youth hockey coach used sports to try and engage in conversation with local boys.
"He was trolling Facebook for children," he said.
Investigators say Desilva sent nude pictures and wanted them to do the same.
"We received a call from a mother who said, hey there's this weirdo and he's trying to say nasty things to my children on Facebook," Judd said.
That's when undercover detectives took over the boy's Facebook accounts. Judd said they pretended to be the boys, and carried on sexually graphic conversations with Desilva for weeks.
The coach thought the boys were coming up on Wednesday for sex, but detectives arrived instead.
His mother, Gladys, watched.
"He was talking with the cops and he was joking with the cops and then all of a sudden it wasn't a joke, and I'm saying 'What the hell does this mean?'," she said.
Desilva coached the Massachusetts Maple Leafs, a junior hockey league that targets kids 16 to 20 years old.
Judging the trophies his mother showed off in Tony's room, he had a successful run as coach.
But that just came to a screeching halt.
"He used sports to lure these kids. Does that sound familiar? I'm thinking Sandusky. Does that come to mind to anyone?" Said Sheriff Judd. "We've got to be careful."
Sheriff Grady Judd says the suspect in the case was arrested due to the quick actions by the mother of one of the victims.
She played an active role in her kids' online activity, something experts say should be a lesson for parents everywhere.
"The fact of the matter is the best weapon you have as a parent is teaching your children that these things can happen and teaching them how to keep them safe," said Mitch Neff, Social Media Consultant in Tampa. "The disturbing part is this is a lot more common than a lot of us really want to think about or talk about."
Neff said some families may want to consider software that monitors online activity.
If nothing else, he said, it's important to sit down with your children and have a serious talk about the dangers.
"We can't protect everyone all the time, but we can educate them about what's right and wrong and how if something doesn't feel right it probably isn't," he said.
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