The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department uncovered massive counterfeit THC vaping cartridge scheme in Bristol (Photo Courtesy of Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department).

Officials looking for possible links to THC vaping injuries

By Jason Arndt

Authorities said courageous parents from Waukesha helped uncover a massive counterfeit THC vaping cartridge manufacturing operation in Kenosha County and resulted in the arrest of two Paddock Lake men.

The two men, Tyler Huffhines, 20, and Jacob Huffhines, 23, each remain held on in Kenosha County Jail on $500,000 cash bonds, according to Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth.

Beth said authorities are seeking multiple charges against the two brothers.

Tyler Huffhines

For Tyler Huffhines, authorities are requesting charges of manufacturing, distribution or delivery of marijuana/THC – more than 10,000 grams, possession with intent to deliver marijuana/THC – more than 10,000 grams, maintaining a drug house and unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identification.

Jacob Huffhines, previously convicted of manufacture/deliver cocaine, second and subsequent offense in Racine County, is accused of possessing a firearm by a felon along with possession of cocaine, second offense. He also faces charges related to possible violation of his probation.

At press conference on a Sept. 11, which included a City of Waukesha Police Department representative, Beth said the Huffhines brothers’ alleged operation is among the largest his agency has seen.

“This is one of the largest drug operations we have had in Kenosha,” he said. “Of this type, it is the largest we have ever had.”

“As far as I know, it is probably one of the largest in the country.”

Beth said the investigation is still ongoing and investigators are looking into whether the Huffhines’ scheme is related to a statewide and national epidemic involving hundreds of people who experienced severe lung disease from vaping devices.

“I am very curious and we are willing to work with any agency in this country… to see if our people here in Kenosha County had any responsibility in hurting hundreds of people throughout the United States, especially in Wisconsin” Beth told reporters.

Parental accountability

Jacob Huffhines

The investigation started in the City of Waukesha, where parents discovered their son in possession of vaping device, and decided to hold him accountable.

City of Waukesha Police Capt. Dan Baumann said the parents should be commended for their courageous actions.

“If it wasn’t for these parents coming through and holding their son accountable, I don’t think we would be here today,” he said. “I am very grateful for these parents. There was a huge accountability component to these courageous parents.”

Authorities with the City of Waukesha Police Department later learned through their investigation these vaping devices were being distributed at Waukesha-area high schools and eventually discovered Huffhines’ alleged link.

Warrant executed
City of Waukesha Police, the Racine County Metro Drug Unit and the Kenosha Drug Operations Group then executed a search warrant Sept. 5 at a condominium in the Village of Bristol and at a home in the Village of Paddock Lake the brothers share with their mother.

At the Bristol condominium, authorities seized 31,200 vaping cartridges filled with one gram of THC each, 98,000 unfilled vaping cartridges, 57 mason jars filled with 1,616 ounces of refined liquid THC, 18 pounds of marijuana, and money counting machines, among other items.

In Paddock Lake, officials seized $59,000, eight firearms with ammunition, 0.6 grams of cocaine, 10.6 grams of marijuana, Xanax, nine cellular phones as well as miscellaneous drug paraphernalia.

Sophisticated operation
Beth described the Huffhines’ operation as sophisticated, noting about 10 employees had time cards, and were paid $20 an hour to start and 30 cents per cartridge.

“They take the empty cartridges, bring them into their condo, pay 10 people to do it and inject them and then they ship them out,” Beth said.

Authorities said Tyler Huffhines allegedly rented the condo in Bristol under false pretenses, using a fake name.

Investigators then discovered the filled THC cartridges were highly potent, indicating about 5 milligrams were contained in each, but were actually 1,000 milligrams.

“It is 157 times the potency,” Beth said.

More to come
Beth, however, said more arrests are likely and the list of people involved in the operation grows daily.

Beth also said finding other people responsible in this investigation is imperative.

“We are looking into several people who may be involved and it seems to be growing everyday,” he said.

“We are trying to put a stop to this.”

The full story will be in the Sept. 19 print edition of the Standard Press along with the Sept. 20 editions of the Westine Report and Waterford Post.