Alamance County sheriff believes student-athlete case involves human trafficking

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ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. -- Two people were arrested last week in connection with an ineligible student-athlete playing for Eastern Alamance High School and Sheriff Terry Johnson said Tuesday he thinks it is part of a bigger human trafficking operation. His department says the whereabouts of three girls connected to the case are unknown.

Aris Lamont Hines, 37, and Brandi Kauilani Thomason, 35, both of Mebane, were arrested last Thursday and charged with felony common law obstruction of justice and obtaining property by false pretense.

Johnson says the couple fraudulently enrolled a student at Eastern Alamance High School. Johnson also believes the two attempted to enroll the three girls in the Alamance-Burlington school system, but the girls were not allowed to enroll. They are believed to be between the ages of 14 and 18. Johnson would not rule out the possibility of them being victims of sex trafficking. In his news conference, he described one as a Dominican but did not have any information on the others.

The student from Eastern Alamance High School student lived in a separate house from the suspects with four other student-athletes, ages 14 to 18, with no adult, Johnson said. The family of a teammate realized the student was not being cared for properly and took the boy in, where he remains now after the Department of Social Services got involved in the investigation.

The boy played both football and basketball at Eastern Alamance. Johnson says after football season, Hines was upset and reported the school to the North Carolina High School Association for using an illegal player. When Eastern Alamance learned of the problem, it informed the sheriff’s office, leading to the investigation that backfired on Hines and led to his and Thomason’s arrests.

The investigation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association resulted in Eastern Alamance’s football and basketball teams being stripped of a combined 28 wins and a repayment of $19,000 in playoff gate receipts.

At the news conference Tuesday morning, Johnson said the Robeson County District Attorney is looking into 18 other students found living in a home tied to Hines.

During a first appearance hearing on Monday, Alamance County District Court Judge Tom Lambeth reduced the bonds for Hines and Thomason from $3 million to $10,000. The couple is currently out on bail.