KENOSHA Wis. - Amid a nationwide outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths, two brothers in Wisconsin face multiple charges, accused of operating an "empire of illegal drugs."
Tyler and Jacob Huffhines were busted in connection with a ring selling illegal THC vaping cartridges worth millions of dollars. The two brothers appeared in Kenosha County court on Monday, one after the other.
Officials say 20-year-old Tyler Huffhines was the mastermind - starting the illegal empire from just 100 cartridges and turning it into possibly one of the largest drug operations of its kind in the country, according to WITI.
Prosecutors say the two are accused of taking a major trip side-by-side.
"Jacob Huffhines did go to California with his brother Tyler Huffhines with $300,000 in order to purchase the THC distillate that was found at the condominium," said the prosecutor.
The complaint says Tyler Huffhines' Snapchat showed "he posted videos of him sitting in first class on the airplane" on his way to California. A confidential informant was able to provide information that the mason jars indeed made their way back to Wisconsin and they were being used to manufacture 'between 4,000 and 5,000 cartridges per day,'" the complaint says.
Officials say the brothers rented a condo that their mother managed. Investigators say the residence was obtained with a fake name. Police say the condo was being used for drug trafficking. Inside, detectives discovered a massive operation with THC buds and much more.
"There were 31,000 cartridges ready to get shipped out and tens of thousands more waiting to get filled and then get shipped out in the future," said Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth.
Sheriff Beth said tubs and mason jars were just a snapshot of what has gone out.
"There are tens or hundreds of thousands of cartridges that have been shipped out and potentially hurt or even killed people in the past," Beth said. "So this is a grave concern for us here in Kenosha, and also the entire nation."
When search warrants were executed on Sept. 5, officers found weapons, drugs, vape cartridges, empty vacuum-sealed bags and a digital scale - all common paraphernalia for ingesting and weighing marijuana.
When questioned by investigators, the complaint says Tyler Huffhines "stated he never smoked THC and got into the business solely to make money. He stated he saw a demand for THC vape cartridges so he started purchasing THC vape cartridges from California."
Huffhines indicated all the money he made from selling the marijuana and THC vape cartridges was put back into the business," the complaint says. He told authorities, "You invest more, you make more. No risk, no reward."
The complaint indicates Huffhines paid workers $20 cash per hour to fill THC cartridges for him. But he "found out that by changing it to 30 cents per cartridge, the people would work harder so their productivity went up and he saved even more money," according to the complaint. Huffhines stated he would stop by the condo in Bristol "once a day to say hi to the workers and then to also pay them."
Bond for the Huffhines brothers was set at $50,000 for Jacob and $500,000 for Tyler. Both are due back in court on Sept. 26.
The Huffhines are charged with the following:
- Possession with intent to deliver THC (> 10,000G) - three counts (Tyler Huffhines)
- Maintaining a drug trafficking place (Tyler Huffhines)
- Identity theft - financial gain (Tyler Huffhines)
- Possession of a firearm by a felon, repeater (Jacob Huffhines)
- Possession of cocaine - 2nd and subsequent offense (Jacob Huffhines)
- Possession of THC - 2nd and subsequent offense (Jacob Huffhines)
- Possession of drug paraphernalia, repeater (Jacob Huffhines)
- Possession of a controlled substance, repeater (Jacob Huffhines)