RALIEGH, NC (CNN) - The parents of a 14-year-old North Carolina boy contacted the sheriff’s office about a man who was communicating online with their son.
The contact seemed innocent - an internet community buying, selling and trading sports memorabilia online - but the parents trusted their instincts and reported the man, who turned out to be a convicted sex offender.
Gary Ryan, 47, of Clifton Park, NY, is now facing five felony child sex charges in New York because of the tip that came from the parents in Wake County, NC.
"Their 14-year-old son was communicating with somebody online and had been doing it since June," said John Moore of the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
Investigator Moore says Ryan’s M.O. is finding boys on Instagram through the trading of sports memorabilia.
While that is seemingly harmless, the boy’s parents were alarmed when he told them Ryan was coming to Raleigh.
"When they found out that this gentleman was coming to North Carolina from New York, to a memorabilia show here in Raleigh, just to meet their son, it kind of sent up flags," Moore said.
The boy did not attend the show at the state fairground in early December, but Ryan did manage to briefly meet the boy without the parents’ knowledge. The only physical contact was a handshake, said Moore, so no crime committed.
Although the boy did not initially tell his parents about the brief meeting, he did tell them Ryan had contacted the boy as he was leaving Raleigh.
He said Ryan had left a gift at the front desk of a Sheraton Hotel where he was staying in north Raleigh.
Curious, the boy’s parents accompanied him there.
"And sure enough, there was about $2,000 worth of sports memorabilia that he had left there for this 14-year-old," said Moore.
More red flags went up and soon a family member found Ryan registered as a child sex offender on an old listing in Florida.
The family contacted a friend who works for the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and the case was given to Moore.
Although there was no crime involved, Moore figured out Ryan was living in New York, contacted authorities there, who assumed the identity of the boy and nabbed Ryan.
"That family having the courage to come to us on something they may or may not have been a big deal to some people, turned in to something where we just saved many victims in the future," said Moore.