Bow National Guard commander charged in Texas sex trafficking case
A New Hampshire National Guard commander who led an infantry unit in Iraq and co-founded the state’s first hurling team, the Barley House Wolves, has been arrested and charged with child sex trafficking.
Lt. Col. Raymond Valas, 41, of Bow was arrested last week in New York on a federal indictment out of San Antonio, Texas. The charge stems from an unspecified incident last August, when Valas was in San Antonio after a four-month humanitarian mission he oversaw in El Salvador.
The indictment does not specify what role Valas allegedly played in the trafficking; two other men, both of San Antonio, have been equally charged in the case. Valas’s attorney, John Convery of San Antonio, said it is being reported locally that Valas had sex with an underage prostitute.
Convery said he had no other information about the allegations; he has yet to meet with Valas, who is being held in New York pending transfer to Texas.
“I think, based on the allegation, the question is not whether she was under age,” Convery said. “The question is what he knew.”
In an order last week denying bail, a judge in Syracuse wrote that Valas had “proffered that he did not know the child was a minor.”
The federal minimum prison sentence for sex trafficking a child is 10 years, 15 if the child is under 14.
“If this were a simple case of prostitution, it would be a county misdemeanor,” Convery said.
Valas has been studying at the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, based at Syracuse University in New York, said Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn, a spokesman for the New Hampshire National Guard. He had been scheduled to return to New Hampshire a week after his arrest.
Heilshorn said Valas’s security clearance has been revoked, pending the outcome of the case.
Valas was commissioned in 1995 through the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of New Hampshire. He deployed in 2004 with the New Hampshire National Guard C Company, 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Infantry, based in Manchester. The unit returned in 2005, after which Valas established the Wolves in an effort to help his men adjust to life post-combat. The team, sponsored by the Barley House in Concord, still exists. Today it includes members of local law enforcement and fire departments, as well as civilians.
Last year, Valas led about 40 men on a four-month humanitarian mission to western El Salvador, during which they built schools and performed other construction and repair projects, Heilshorn said. The operation was overseen by U.S. Army South, which is headquartered in San Antonio.
Convery said Valas has a wife and children who live in New Hampshire. He also said his phone had been “ringing off the hook” with support from Valas’s friends and fellow infantrymen.
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, email@example.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)