PADDOCK LAKE — Authorities are investigating whether a large-scale operation by two Paddock Lake brothers allegedly manufacturing illegal THC vaping cartridges — the cartridges packaged to look like candy and believed to have been marketed to teens — could be connected to a spate of vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths.
Tyler Huffhines, 20, and Jacob Huffhines, 23, were arrested Sept. 5 after simultaneous warrants were served on the home where they lived with their mother and grandfather, 24622 74th St. in Paddock Lake, and a rented condominium at 7937 Williamsburg Court in the Bristol Bay subdivision in Bristol.
At a press conference Wednesday, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said at the Paddock Lake home investigators found $59,000 in cash, eight guns and ammunition, 10.6 grams of marijuana and a small amount of cocaine and Xanax, along with scales and other paraphernalia related to drug sales.
The bulk of the operation was found at the Bristol condominium, which had been rented under a false name.
In the sparsely furnished condo, investigators found more than 100,000 filled and unfilled vape cartridges, three money-counting machines, 18 pounds of marijuana and 57 mason jars, each filled with 1,616 ounces of refined liquid THC, the oil in each jar valued at approximately $6,000.
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Beth said the operation, allegedly launched by Tyler Huffhines in January 2018, had as many as 10 employees who were paid to inject THC oil into the vape cartridges, which were then placed in the candy-like, brightly colored packaging with names like Sour Patch, and distributed for sale.
The operation came to light after parents of a teenager in the city of Waukesha brought their teenage son to the police station there to report that he was involved in the sale of THC vape pens at a local high school.
“The parents (of the Waukesha teen) were focused on holding their son accountable,” said Capt. Dan Baumann of the Waukesha Police Department. “These parents were courageous for what they did and should be commended.”
The investigation that meeting sparked eventually led to the Huffhineses.
Beth said more arrests are likely. He said investigators are working with federal authorities to see if the illegally manufactured vaping cartridges could be related to a spate of vaping-related lung illnesses, including several deaths.