High-ranking Crip 'wooed' NC prison officer. The FBI ended their romance.

High-ranking Crip 'wooed' NC prison officer. The FBI ended their romance.
A former officers at Lanesboro Correctional Institution was convicted last week of smuggling drugs into the Polkton, N.C. prison. (Photo provided to the Charlotte Observer)

NORTH CAROLINA (Gavin Off and Ames Alexander/Charlotte Observer) - A former Lanesboro Correctional Institution officer who sold drugs to an inmate and bragged about knowing many "dirty" officers was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison last week, court records show.

For more than a year, Evangeline Hunt smuggled drugs, tobacco and other contraband to at least one inmate at the maximum-security prison southeast of Charlotte, court records state. One of the inmate's relatives paid Hunt through wire transfers.

James Cannon, a high-ranking Crip gang member, began "wooing" Hunt romantically, according to the indictment. Cannon then provided her with a cellphone so the two could secretly talk.

Even after Hunt said she'd cooperate with an FBI investigation into Cannon's smuggling operation, she continued to bring in drugs, according to the indictment. Hunt also warned Cannon about the FBI's probe.

"Please dont (sic) be fooled by Officer Hunt," read a text message from a tipster to an FBI agent. "She is playing both sides. She told Cannon in the beginning that the feds were listening. She still getting money and bringing in weed."

A Charlotte Observer investigation published last year found that a hidden world of drugs, sex and gang violence thrives inside the state's prisons – and that officers who are paid to prevent such corruption are instead fueling it.

Prison officers frequently team up with inmates on crimes that endanger staff members, inmates and the public, the newspaper found. And Lanesboro has had more than its share of violence and corruption.

Hunt wasn't the only Lanesboro officer to smuggle contraband into the prison. At least eight Lanesboro officers were caught bringing in drugs, cellphones and tobacco from early 2013 to early 2017, according to law enforcement records.

In December, following a Charlotte Observer investigation into prison corruption, prison officials began to crack down on contraband smuggling.

The state now has cellphone detection devices at all prisons and frisks almost everyone who enters.

A recent Duke University study recommended that the state take additional measures: using more drug-sniffing dogs and random searches.