KENOSHA — Tyler Huffhines, the alleged leader of a huge blackmarket THC vape manufacturing ring, rejected a plea offer Monday that recommended a six-year prison sentence.
Huffhines, 20, of Paddock Lake, is charged with six felonies, including three counts of possession of in excess of 10,000 grams of THC with intent to deliver.
He is alleged to have been the organizer of a drug manufacturing and sales business that had employees manufacturing thousands of THC vape cartridges per day from a Bristol condominium and his mother’s Union Grove real estate office.
His mother, Courtney Huffhines, and brother, Jacob Huffhines, are also charged for their roles in the scheme, along with several employees, some from Racine.
The operation came to light after an investigation that began into vape sales at a Waukesha high school. The Huffhines’ arrest and charges came at the same time.
At a hearing Monday in Kenosha County Circuit Court, prosecutor Lesli Boese said the state offered Huffhines a plea agreement that, had he accepted it, would have seen him plead guilty to two counts of possession of THC with intent to deliver and one count of identity theft. The state would then have dropped the remaining criminal counts and recommended that he serve six years in prison followed by three years of probation on one count, with stayed sentences for the other two counts. The offer was contingent on Huffhines’ defense not filing any motions in the case.
Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Mary K. Wagner asked Huffhines if he understood the offer.
“Yes, ma’am. I reject it,” Huffhines answered.
Supreme Court ruling cited
Defense attorney Mark Richards told the judge he believed that the charges against Huffhines are not legally sound, citing a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in a different drug case. In that case, a man named Dennis Brantner was charged with separate counts of possession of a controlled substance, with each of the counts involving the same type of pill, but in different sized dozes. The court found that just the difference in the dosage was not enough for separate charges.
Richards argues that in the Huffhines case, based on the Brantner ruling, his client should not be facing three separate possession of THC charges. Richards said Huffhines is charged with separate counts for the different forms of THC found in the case, all of it found in the same condominium on the same day.
“Ethically, I can’t ask my client to plea to something I don’t believe exists in law,” Richards said.
Boese told the judge that she believes that the difference in the types of THC and the fact that they were marketed differently is sufficient for the separate charges.
That issue is scheduled to go before the judge at a hearing in August. Richards also plans to contest the use at trial of statements Huffhines made to investigators.
The other defendants in the Huffhines case are next scheduled to be in court in August.
Sign up for our Crime & Courts newsletter
Get the latest in local public safety news with this weekly email.