New Hampshire National Guard commander Raymond Valas is being detained in a Syracuse, NY jail awaiting transport to Texas to face a federal charge of sex trafficking.
Valas came to prominence in Irish circles when he became one of the founders of the Concord, NH Barley House Wolves GAA hurling team comprised of US army players.
The team has been featured on network television, on NPR and many other media outlets in the US and Ireland.
The team came together in 2006 after Valas and others, coming back from Iraq, saw hurling on TV during their St. Patrick’s Day stopover in Shannon Airport and decided to take it up.
The 41-year-old was arrested in Syracuse on May 19 on one count of sex trafficking of children, by force, fraud or coercion, last Aug. 26 in San Antonio, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.
A judge in Syracuse wrote that Valas had “proffered that he did not know the child was a minor,” but he denied bail.
The sentence for sex trafficking a child is 10 years, 15 if the child is under 14. It is usually a misdemeanor if the woman is of legal age.
Lt. Col. Valas was in Syracuse as a U.S. Army War College fellow at the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSC) based at Syracuse University.
Valas’ lawyer, John Covery of San Antonio, said his client had just completed the Syracuse program and was set to return to New Hampshire when he was arrested.
Covery said that, although he has received no discovery documents from federal prosecutors providing the government’s case against Valas, it is being reported in Texas that he is accused of having sex with a minor last August in San Antonio.
“What they (prosecutors) do is destroy you first and your reputation and then leave you to defend yourself,” Covery told the Union Leader. “It doesn’t seem very fair to me and I’m a former prosecutor.”
Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn, public affairs officer for the New Hampshire National Guard, said he has no information concerning the accusation against Valas, who is an Active Guard Reserve officer in the state Guard, but did say that Valas was in San Antonio on National Guard orders last August.
A source told the San Antonio Express-News that Valas is suspected of traveling to Texas on purported government business, and also for “extracurricular activities” that included paying for sex.
According to Covery, Valas is being held without bail pending his transportation to San Antonio, He added that he does not know when that will take place.
Valas explained in an earlier interview how he urged his army group to take up hurling.
“About a year later we came back through Shannon again for the morning refueling stop and I happened to see a little bit of a hurling match on a TV screen there by the bar, and a bunch of us said what is that sport?”
The group of soldiers liked what they saw and Colonel Valas thought of introducing the sport as a method of instilling camaraderie among the National Guard after they returned from Iraq.
“2004, 2005 was a busy year in Iraq for us, as an infantry company on the ground, so we just felt really fortunate we wanted to keep that tie there, keep that bond,” according to Colonel Valas.
Upon their return to U.S. soil they began playing in the Junior C grade in the New Hampshire region. They have even competed at the U.S. National championships.
The team was due to be honored in Boston at the weekend for their service to hurling.