State Politics

NC spy-gear tycoon led life of international intrigue

Former state Sen. John Carrington
Former state Sen. John Carrington

John Carrington, who made a fortune selling spy and police gear before he turned to politics and later ran afoul of international commerce laws, died Tuesday. He was 82.

A high school dropout who became an Army paratrooper during the Korean War, Carrington started a small fingerprinting supply business and later bought another fingerprint supply company from his brother-in-law. He eventually sold equipment around the world.

Carrington, who moved to Raleigh from New Jersey in 1975 and later to Youngsville, made millions selling police and spy equipment. He ran, at first unsuccessfully, for state and federal offices as a Republican in the 1980s and 1990s – eventually winning election to the state Senate, where he served from 1995 to 2005.

He was unseated in a Republican primary by Neal Hunt, a former Raleigh City Council member.

In 2005, Carrington was charged with federal offenses involving shipping equipment to China in violation of a ban on shipments to nations with past human rights abuses. He pleaded guilty and was fined $850,000.

It surfaced later that a number of North Carolina politicians, legislative staff and lobbyists invested in one of Carrington’s companies, including then-Gov.Mike Easley and then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, both Democrats. Former powerful Sen. Tony Rand replaced Carrington as chairman of the board of the firm.

At one point, a company board member and employee secretly recorded a lunch conversation with Rand using one of the firm’s tiny recorders hidden inside his golf shirt.

In 2010, that board member sued, claiming he was fired after Carrington engaged in export violations, which led to a federal probe. The lawsuit also alleged insider trading because of the prominent shareholders. The company prevailed in that lawsuit.

Memorial services will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at Mitchell Funeral Home in Raleigh.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO