Houston Catholic charity faces lawsuit

A lawsuit has been filed against Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and its former employee, Carlos Antonio Valera. The charity provides social services for families including immigrant legal services for about 80,000 families a year.

The lawsuit claims negligence of the organization and “willful disregard for the well-being of others and cover up that has persisted at the charity for nearly a decade.” The family of the victim is represented by Texas attorney, Rob Ranco from the Carlson Law Firm. “We would like an admission. We would like an apology,” voiced Ranco.

Valera was convicted of indecency with a child and sentenced to 7 years in prison this year. In 2007, a family of immigrants from Cuba was in the lobby. Valera used candy to lure the 11-year-old into his office. The child was told his family would not get help if he told anyone.

“So how do you get behind closed doors access to at least one child and apparently more when it’s not even part of your job description?” asked Ranco. “We’ve learned our incident is not an isolated incident.”

Records show there was a previous event with Valera and another middle school child two years prior to this incident in 2005. The family made a complaint to the senior administration. “This was all reported by the family to the Catholic Charities and apparently nothing was done,” said Ranco.

During investigation, an employee stated she was told by co-workers to “keep Valera away from children.” Another employee stated Valera was inappropriately visiting one of her clients as well. “It was documented, but this man continued to work there for like five more years after that, which gave him opportunity to come into contact with my client,” said Ranco.

The Charity is near the top of the list on the largest charity evaluator, Charity Navigator. It has been given four stars for the past 13 years. The organization has released a statement concerning the lawsuit:

“Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston provides a comprehensive network of social services aimed at promoting and facilitating self-sufficiency. We offer support and opportunities that empower people and communities to grow and thrive.

In the course of caring for thousands of individuals, we periodically encounter challenges. In 2011, a former employee (who had been terminated by Catholic Charities in 2009) was arrested and charged for engaging in inappropriate behavior with a minor. Catholic Charities did not know about this young man’s allegations until we received an inquiry from the Grand Jury. Catholic Charities fully cooperated with the investigation. The former employee was later sentenced to seven years in prison for his actions.

Due to ongoing litigation, no further comments may be provided at this time.”

The family is seeking more than a million dollars in damages and requested a jury trial. “It’s our intention to make them sit up and take notice and admit what happened here,” said Ranco. The victim is now 18 years old. Ranco says his recovery will be a lifelong journey. “As embarrassing and horrifying as it is, he wants his story to be told.”

Valera will be eligible for his first parole in 2017.

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