Man accused in high-profile human trafficking investigation wants to clear his name after charges dropped

Aris Hines is a plain-spoken man on a mission. He says he wants to clear his name after it appeared in headlines about a high profile human trafficking investigation back in 2016.

That's when we met him in Mebane, after a press conference at the office of Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. The sheriff told reporters his deputies were investigating after an ineligible athlete was enrolled at Eastern Alamance High, and checking to see if that activity was related to human trafficking.

Johnson said Aris Hines and Brandi Thomason were charged with felony common law obstruction of justice and obtaining property by false pretense. The sheriff said investigators believed Hines and Thomason fraudulently conspired to enroll a young man, a native of Nigeria, into the school system to play two sports.

"They tell the parents we're gonna send them to America to get a good education. The parents agree and allow their children to come to America", said Johnson.

At the time, the sheriff said the investigation could lead to what he called a bigger human trafficking operation.

"And I never was charged with that! He was charging me with that in the public eye," Hines told us during a weekend Internet interview. He repeated some of what we heard when we met him outside his Mebane home in 2016, denying the uses of falsified documents to get the Nigerian athlete into the Alamance public school system.

"Terry Johnson did an interview on TV, and he was saying that this was a human trafficking ring," Hines said. "He charged me in the public eye, but they didn't tell me personally I was charged with human trafficking."

Hines now lives in Texas, a decision made after he says publicity about the investigation prompted eviction from he home he rented in Mebane and the loss of job opportunities in North Carolina. He says the stories about his arrest still impact his life today.

"If you Google my name now, they were talking about human trafficking or trafficking any kids," he said. "The parents had signed off on it, it had the Nigerian seal from a notary. And when we went to the school, if they had told us that we needed a court ordered document, which we didn't know at the time, we would have went through the courts and got the proper document to enroll the kid."

Hines called me and asked for the opportunity to update the story after hearing from his attorney on July 6 that the Alamance County district attorney had dismissed the charges filed two years ago,

"He said 'lack of evidence,' Hines said when asked what his lawyer said that day. "And he always said they didn't have no evidence to even press the charges against me."

ABC11 obtained a statement about the Hines case and dismissal of charges issued by Alamance County District Attorney Pat Nadolski:

"State unable to prove each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on following developments after charging inconsistent statements by victim and significant problems obtaining pertinent and relevant evidence from federal authorities."

Now that the charges he faced in Alamance County are dismissed, Hines says he'll file a civil suit. He won't say yet when, or who he'll sue.
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charges dismissedalamance county newsHuman TraffickingMebane
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