Felon who rented car in Hairston case clarifies ties to UNC, athletes | NewsObserver.com



Published: July 5, 2013 Updated 17 hours ago

By Laura Keeley — lkeeley@newsobserver.com

Haydn “Fats” Thomas, the convicted felon who rented the SUV that North Carolina basketball player P.J. Hairston was driving at the time of his arrest, has business ties to an adjunct faculty member at the UNC School of Dentistry and is more familiar with UNC athletes than he claimed earlier in the week.

In a July 3 interview with USA Today, Thomas said he didn’t know Hairston or anyone at North Carolina. He clarified that statement in a phone interview Friday.

“We throw parties, for Christ’s sake,” Thomas said when asked how he knew UNC athletes.

“When I said I don’t know them, I meant, I don’t know you, but you’re talking to me now, right? So I guess I met you.”

Thomas declined to comment further on his familiarity with UNC athletes. A picture of former UNC and current Milwaukee Bucks basketball player John Henson was sent out in July 2012 from Thomas’ Twitter account, which has since been deleted.

Thomas, 39, has four aliases, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Thomas also has an extensive criminal background, with arrests in Wake, Durham, Orange, Alamance, and Guilford counties, according to public records. Many of his charges are drug and gun related. He has never served time in jail or prison, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Thomas, who has three active corporations registered under his aliases with the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State, also has business ties to Spencer B. Howard, a graduate and adjunct faculty member at the UNC School of Dentistry, according to his biography. Thomas said Howard is his “blood related,” cousin. In 2010, the two incorporated Kairobi Exotic Rentals and Transport Inc., a car rental company that is still active under Howard’s name. According to current records, it is located in the suite next to Howard’s oral surgery center.

Howard did not return a message for comment.

Thomas’s name first surfaced earlier this week when it was reported that he rented the SUV that Hairston was driving at the time of his arrest. Hairston, 20, along with passengers Miykael Faulcon, 20, and Carlos Sanford, 23, was arrested June 5 at a license checkpoint in Durham, and the three face misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession. Thomas told USA Today that he rented the car, which cost $1,261.64 for 72 hours, for himself from Hertz. He said he had lent it to Faulcon, a friend.

A police report detailing the arrest said that 43.2 grams of marijuana in plastic bags, three cigars, a 9mm handgun, a magazine with nine rounds of ammunition and a rental agreement also were found at the scene. Durham police have not identified the owner of the gun. Thomas has denied that the gun and the drugs belong to him.

UNC athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner did not respond to a call or email for comment.

Thomas was most recently arrested in December and charged with three felonies: possession and intent to sell a controlled substance (12 grams of marijuana), maintaining a dwelling used for keeping or selling a controlled substance, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. A trial date has not yet been set.

Thomas’s current lawyer, John R. Griffin, III, did not return a call for comment.

A magistrate’s order for his pending legal charges doesn’t list an employer for Thomas. Previously, he was the security manager at the strip club that employed Crystal Mangum, the dancer at the center of the Duke lacrosse case, and Thomas provided video of her dancing after the alleged incident to 60 minutes.

Thomas’ felony conviction came in 2006 from a guilty plea to a felony charge of accessing computers. According to the warrant for his arrest, he used a Compaq desktop computer to create counterfeit checks to obtain property and services worth more than $1,000. Thomas also tried to use a stolen MasterCard to obtain goods, services and lodging from a Residence Inn in Durham. In the same plea deal, he also pled guilty to four counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. He received 24 months of supervised probation and 50 hours of community service.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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