CONCORD, N.H. — Gov. Maggie Hassan ordered off state property a New Hampshire National Guard officer indicted in Texas on a sex-trafficking charge after she learned Lt. Col Raymond Valas had returned to work at state headquarters.
“It is accurate,” Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn, public affairs officer for the New Hampshire National Guard, said when asked if Valas’ removal from headquarters was at Hassan’s order.
“Lt. Col. Valas is alleged to have committed a serious crime, child sex trafficking, while attending a military conference as part of his official duties,” said William Hinkle, the governor’s press secretary. “He is facing federal criminal charges and could face military action.
“Pending the outcome of official proceedings, given the serious nature of the alleged offense, Governor Hassan consulted with the New Hampshire National Guard to ensure that we were taking every step to maintain a safe working environment for all employees, as well as the honor, integrity and reputation of our National Guard. She believes it is appropriate that he not be working in close proximity to other Guard employees or have access to secured information or buildings at this time.”
A 15-year-old girl that Valas allegedly had sex with was advertised as an escort on backpage.com. Valas’ trial is scheduled for Nov. 17. Heilshorn confirmed that Valas, 41, returned to his job as an operations officer at state headquarters the week of July 14 but as of last week was no longer working at the state property.
Heilshorn said Valas is now on “tele-work” paid status, working from his parents’ Alton home, pending the outcome of the case.
Attorney John A. Covery of San Antonio said his client is an “outstanding officer” and anything that keeps him working is a good thing. He said he thought there were a lot of New Hampshire people who fought and died for the Constitution, which includes a presumption of innocence.
“You would think they would have the same kind of respect for it that they had in 1776,” he said. “It might sound a little bit corny, but it’s very American. There’s a presumption of innocence in this country, which is a very good thing.”
Covery said the federal government, in documents he has received, said the men charged with prostituting two 15-year-old girls told the girls to tell everyone they were over 18. The government’s position, Covery said, is that Valas was a customer when he was in San Antonio.
“That isn’t necessarily the defense’s position,” he said.
Detained in May
Valas, of Bow, originally was detained in May without bail in Syracuse, N.Y., where he was a student enrolled in the U.S. Army’s War College at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism. He was indicted the same week he was to graduate, according to court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Antonio.
On July 1, a Texas judge granted bail, setting it at $50,000, but allowing Valas to post 10 percent or $5,000. He was released with numerous conditions, including home confinement. That includes him wearing a tracking device, and restricts him to residing with his parents, Raymond and Kristina Valas, at their Alton home. However, he was allowed to go to work, to medical and attorney appointments, attend religious services and court-ordered programs.
His arrest is related to an alleged prostitution ring involving three San Antonio residents who are accused of prostituting teenage girls in the city. Their charges also include the production of child pornography.
Covery, in documents arguing for bail for Valas, said his client has no criminal history and has “an exemplary military career.” Valas was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1995, but left the military in 1999.
He became a sales representative for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly but after the tragedy of 9-11, he left his lucrative position and returned to the military “because he felt his country needed him,” Covery wrote.
Manchester airport security
Initially, Valas took command of airport security at the Manchester airport, becoming a full-time member of the N.H. National Guard in 2003. He was deployed to Iraq as commander of C Company, 287th Mountain Infantry Unit from January 2004 to February 2005.
In 2006, he became the Guard’s international affairs officer responsible for the State Partnership Program activities between New Hampshire and El Salvador. He visited El Salvador 20 times during that period and published a paper on the State Partnership Program and on the MS-13 El Salvador gang.
Covery said in court documents that Valas’ children’s school in Bow adopted an El Salvador school. He has been married to Kristina Lynn Valas since 1997; the couple have three children, one with Down syndrome.
The Texas case
Two San Antonio men — Marcus Deshawn Wright, 38, and Malcom Deandre Copeland, 21 — allegedly advertised the escort service. Wright, who is charged with two counts of sex trafficking of children and one charge of selling or buying children, is scheduled for trial on Aug. 18.
Amber Doak, 20, of San Antonio pleaded guilty in March to her role in prostituting a 15-year-old girl in August 2013.
She pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking of children and admitted using a cellphone provided by Wright to take pictures of the victim so Wright and Copeland could use them to advertise the teen on backpage.com.
The website is known for its advertising of prostitution under the pretext of “escorts,” according to Texas prosecutors.
Doak fielded inquiries from those responding to the advertisement and traveled with Wright and Copeland as they transported the teen to multiple locations to engage in commercial sex.
Copeland was convicted July 23 of two counts of sex trafficking of children.
He is to be sentenced on Dec. 5.