3 girls found in connection with possible NC human trafficking investigation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Three girls have been found in connection with a possible human trafficking case out of Alamance County that has Charlotte ties, officials told reporter Paul Boyd.

The girls disappeared from Alamance County after trying to register for school there. Authorities believe two people have lured dozens of student athletes from outside the country for their own financial gain.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials confirmed to Channel 9 that a warrant was served late Thursday afternoon at a Charlotte school connected to the investigation.

However, authorities said that the Evelyn Mack Academy and its founder Evelyn Mack, are likely nothing more than innocent victims in the case.

"Right now, I would have to say they're probably more of a victim than anything. I don't want to characterize them as if they have some type of a known involvement in this because right now I have no information to indicate that," said Deputy Randy Jones with the Alamance County Sheriff's Office.

The Evelyn Mack Academy in southeast Charlotte sponsored two international student athletes that were referred by Aris Hines, the man at the center of the human-trafficking investigation.

One student from Nigeria never showed up to the school and was found illegally enrolled in Alamance County.

The other student from the Dominican Republic is currently a star player on the Evelyn Mack Academy basketball team and arrived in the U.S. legally.

The Sheriff's Office said Hines and his girlfriend, Brandi Thomason, may have lured dozens of student athletes from outside the country for their own financial gain over several years.

The FBI has joined in the search for dozens of these students, including at least three from Alamance County who disappeared after unsuccessfully trying to register for school there.

"The key is leading back to the safe recovery of these kids to make sure they're OK. That's our first concern. We'll work on the prosecution after that," said Jones.

Channel 9 has confirmed that Hines was a basketball coach at a school in Lumberton, North Carolina, called Riverside Christian Academy.

The Eyewitness News investigation also uncovered that Hines and Thomason came to North Carolina from Oklahoma.

Court documents from 2007 show the details of a domestic dispute and protective order that was ultimately dismissed.

Hines and Thomason remain free on bond until their first court appearance on June 1.

Channel 9 has also learned that officials with the state department will be in North Carolina next week to meet with investigators who are looking into the activities of Hines and Thomason.

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