Authorities say a pair of brothers who ran an illegal THC cartridge 'empire' have been arrested this week in Wisconsin.
Tyler Huffhines, 20 and his brother, Jacob Huffhines, 23, were arrested on Sept. 5 after authorities served search warrants at the brother's family home in Paddock Lake and at a rented condominium in Bristol. Detectives say the younger brother, Tyler, was the "ringleader" of the sophisticated THC 'empire' with the rented condo acting as headquarters for the brother's operation.
Detectives say they discovered around 31,200 vape cartridges in the condo, each one filled with a gram of liquid THC. Another 98,000 empty cartridges were discovered alongside 57 mason jars filled with liquid THC. Each jar could be valued up to $6,000 on the market. Authorities also discovered three money-counting machines as well as 18 pounds of marijuana, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said. At the brother's family residence, authorities found several firearms, prescription painkillers and marijuana.
"This is a major, major operation," said Beth at a joint press conference announcing the arrests on Wednesday. "It looks like candy. It's not candy. It's highly potent drugs."
Authorities say the operation began when in January 2018, Tyler Huffhines hired several employees to help him fill vape cartridges with liquid THC and package them using candy-like names, such as "Sour Patch." The packaging was also misleading consumers, which stated the cartridges only held about 5mg of THC when in fact, they held held 1,000 mg.
The operation was initiated after the parents of a high school student discovered the THC vape cartridges and brought him to the police station. There, information was provided that eventually led back to the Huffhines brothers, officials said.
Tyler Huffhines was arrested on several drug-related felony charges and is being held in the Kenosha County Jail on a $500,000 bond. His brother, Jacob, was arrested on charges of cocaine possession, possession of a firearm by a felon and violating probation. Authorities say they're still searching for others who may have been involved in the drug ring and more arrests could be coming, authorities said.
The arrests come amidst an investigation into a mysterious lung disease that has resulted in six deaths nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they're investigating more than 450 cases of the severe lung disease which have not been linked to a specific vaping device or chemical. The CDC says most victims are male, between the ages of 18 and 25 and admit to using nicotine, THC or both.
Photo: Kenosha County Sheriff's Department