Possible N.C. human trafficking case has ties to Robeson County

Possible N.C. human trafficking case has ties to Robeson County

ROBESON COUNTY, NC (WMBF) – A possible human trafficking case in the triad area of North Carolina has ties to Robeson County as well.

In Almanace County, the accusations center around fraud and human trafficking, while in Robeson County, charges could be for voter fraud.

Suspects Aris Hines and Brandi Thomason currently face charges of felony obstruction of justice and obtaining property by false pretense.

"Any charge on these people that we can make will be placed," said Alamanace County Sheriff Terry Johnson.

At a press conference Tuesday, Johnson set the tone for the case involving Hines and Thomason.

Both are accused of falsifying documents to enroll a Nigerian student athlete at Eastern Alamance High School. The school has since forfeited a number of wins, along with $19,000 in playoff ticket money.

The sheriff alleged the case goes further than athletic achievements by calling it human trafficking.

Johnson said Hines also unsuccessfully tried to enroll three female students who haven't been seen since.

"He says he doesn't know anything about the three, so the question now is, 'Where are they, and are they safe?'" said Erich Von Hackney, an investigator for the Robeson County District Attorney's Office.

Since the arrests, officials with the Robeson County District Attorney's Office have said they've spent more than two years investigating Hines as well.

Investigators said in 2013, Hines brought 18 kids into Robeson County after promising their parents academic help.

"One of the kids that I talked to from New York, he paid $3,500 - or his mother did – up front," Von Hackney said. "Then, when he got here, he was paying $250 a month. So, Hines was coming out well financially."

Von Hackney added that Hines really caught their attention when he used the kids to commit voter fraud.

"Hines was encouraged to help register them and carry them down to vote," he said. "Well, 18 kids could take an entire election, sway the entire results of an election."

In this case it did, as the 2013 Pembroke election resulted in a tie.

Investigators are still trying to locate many of those students before pursuing more charges against Hines.

Hines and his girlfriend posted bond on the Alamance County charges on Tuesday.

Moving forward, there is a task force that is set to meet next week on the case. It includes officials from the sheriffs' and district attorneys' offices from Alamance and Robeson counties, along with the FBI and other state agencies.

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