BARTOW – A 41-year-old man, who serves as the coach of a junior hockey team in Taunton, Massachusetts, was taken into custody on Wednesday, and although he was placed in a jail in Dartmouth, Mass., the investigation was assisted by undercover detectives in Polk County and started here.
Those Polk County investigators targeted Anthony “Tony” DeSilva after the mother of a 16-year-old Polk County boy called the sheriff’s office to say the coach had contacted her son through the social media site Facebook, and had made sexual advances toward her son.
On Wednesday, Polk County Sheriff’s Computer Crimes Unit undercover detectives arrested DeSilva, of 23 Fairfield St. in Acushnet, Massachusetts, and charged him with 10 counts of using a computer to seduce a child, a felony, and one count of transmission of harmful material to a child.
Polk County’s sheriff, Grady Judd, thanked the local mother who came forward to report this case to law enforcement.
“We have said over and over that parents are our first line of defense against sexual offenders and predators,” Judd said. “Here is a perfect example of that. This mother absolutely did the right thing by contacting us as soon as she suspected that a sexual predator was soliciting her child online.”
The fact that the suspect lives in Massachusetts doesn’t matter, Judd added. DeSilva is being transported to Florida, and his first appearance will be on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Central County Jail in Bartow.
“It doesn’t matter where these sexual predators live,” Judd said. “The Internet brings them right into your home, soliciting your children, and we will continue to do everything we can to put them behind bars.”
According to the Web site for the Massachusetts Maple Leafs, DeSilva is the head coach of the ESHL junior team and the organization’s general manager.
“DeSilva has extensive experience in high level hockey,” the site notes. “Over the course of the last 14 seasons, DeSilva has accrued over 600 wins, seven league championships, and seven Junior National Championship appearances, with three of those resulting in Championships. His most important number is the more than 160 players that he has advanced to a higher level of hockey with his program.”
Prior to this, DeSilva worked as an assistant coach at three schools in Southeastern Massachusetts: Bishop Stang High in Fall River, Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High, and Fairhaven High, in the 1980s and early 1990s.
He ran into trouble with the law in Polk County earlier this year when the local mother contacted the sheriff’s office to say a Massachusetts man named Tony was soliciting her son online, through Facebook.
“Detectives asked for, and received, permission from the woman to pose as her son online to continue conversing with the suspect online,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the arrest.
What happened next, Eleazer reported, is that DeSilva did quite a bit online to incriminate himself.
“During the online and text conversations, DeSilva sent naked images of himself to the ‘boy,’ and in graphic details described what he would like to do sexually to the ‘boy,’ ” Eleazer noted.
She added that at one point, DeSilva voluntarily told the local teen he worked as a hockey coach for a junior hockey club team, named the team, and claimed the team’s players were 20 years old — or younger.
“During the same time frame, DeSilva also began soliciting another Polk County teenaged boy, whom the Polk County Sheriff’s Office undercover detective also asked for, and received, permission to pose as online,” Eleazer noted. “The detective had conversations with DeSilva posing as two different 16-year-old Polk County boys, during which DeSilva solicited both young men online to perform sex acts and to send him nude photos of themselves.”
On Wednesday, Polk County Sheriff’s detectives, assisted by detectives from the New Bedford Police Department and Dartmouth State Police, took DeSilva into custody at his home. He was booked into the Ash Street Jail in Dartmouth, pending his transfer to Bartow.
Polk County detectives then served a search warrant at his home.
“During a post-Miranda interview, DeSilva told detectives that he knew the two boys he was chatting with online and via text were 16 years old,” Eleazer said.
He also told detectives he works at a group home for the mentally challenged, owned by CRJ Community Resource Justice.
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