Brothers Tyler Huffhines, 20 and Jacob Huffhines, 23, were arrested September 5 after Wisconsin authorities accused the two men of running a black market THC vape cartridge operation. Investigators are accusing the men of running an “empire of illegal drugs.” THC is the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana.
The Huffhines’ illegal vaping business was run out of two locations in Kenosha County: the family’s home in the Village of Paddock Lake, and a condominium in the village of Bristol, according to police.
Several law enforcement agencies participated in the 6 a.m. raids, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Kenosha Sheriff’s Department, Racine County Metro Drug Unit, City of Waukesha Police Department and the Kenosha Drug Operations Group. Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said the investigation is ongoing.
Both men were taken to the Kenosha County Jail.
Tyler Huffhines is now facing criminal charges of alleged possession of THC with intent to distribute, maintaining a place for drug trafficking and misappropriating an ID, according to Wisconsin court records.
Jacob Huffhines, has been charged with alleged possession of cocaine and THC being a felon in possession of a firearm, court records show.
Here’s what you need to know about Tyler and Jacob Huffhines.
1. Tyler Huffhines Was Described as the Operation’s ‘Ringleader’
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth described Tyler as the “ringleader” and the brothers’ setup as a “sophisticated operation.” A September 11 press release issued by the Sheriff’s Office estimated the total street value of the THC recovered to be estimated at $1.5 million.
Authorities allege that Tyler and Jacob Huffhines had 10 employees who were making $20 an hour injecting the vape cartridges with concentrated THC oil, packaging the cartridges, and preparing them for distribution. Their workers filled 3,000-5,000 cartridges per day. The vaping cartridges were allegedly sold in counterfeit packaging with whimsical names like “Sour Patch,” “Chronic,” and “Dabwoods.” Customers could choose from a variety of fruity flavors like banana, apple, and grape. Cartridges sold for $16 each, according to the accusations.
Tyler typically managed the operation and would check in at the condo once a day to oversee production and pay staff, authorities allege. They say the business was well organized, and each employee had a time card for clocking in and out of work. “Based on how everything was set up, this was a very high-tech operation that was running for some time,” Kenosha County assistant district attorney Andrew Burgoyne told the Kenosha News.
2. Police Discovered Counterfeit Vape Cartridges, Marijuana, Concentrated THC Oil, Cocaine & Guns
When police entered the Huffhines’ house in the 24000 block of 74th Street, they say they discovered $59,000 in cash, eight guns with ammunition, nine cell phones, cocaine, marijuana, Xanax, and drug paraphernalia. “That was just the tip of the iceberg of this operation,” Beth said. The brothers, their mother, and grandfather were at home when the warrant was served.
The condo, located in the 7900 block of Williamsburg Court, contained 31,200 vape cartridges, each filled with one gram of liquid THC, the active chemical in cannabis, 98,000 empty vape cartridges, and 57 mason jars filled with liquid THC, with the contents of each jar valued at $6,000, according to authorities. Beth said the property had been rented under a fake name.
Investigators also say they found 18 pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia used to fill the cartridges, three money counting machines, and $351 in cash. No one was at the condo when authorities entered.
3. Police Were Tipped off by Local Parents Whose Son Had Allegedly Purchased the Huffhines’ Cartridges
Police received valuable information last July when the parents of a Waukesha high school boy found their son with THC vape cartridges and brought him to the police station to teach him a lesson. The information provided by the teen led investigators back to the Huffhines brothers, authorities allege.
“These parents were courageous for what they did,” Waukesha County Police Captain Dan Baumann said during an inter-agency press conference. He added that they should be commended for helping police uncover what authorities are calling one of the biggest counterfeit vaping operations in the United States.
“If it wasn’t for these parents coming through and holding their son accountable, I don’t think we’d be here today giving you the information and the gravity of this vaping epidemic that’s going on in the nation right now. … I’m grateful for these parents.”
4. As a High School Student, Tyler Huffhines Once Told a Reporter ‘I’m a Businessman & the Hustle Is My Style’
Tyler Huffhines was a local celebrity in his community. In addition to being a former high school football player, the Kenosha News published a 2018 story about Tyler. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” was a front-page article that detailed how Tyler had started selling athletic shoes online. The paper reported that Tyler had amassed “thousands of dollars in the bank and thousands invested in the stock market, thanks to his own hard work and uncanny ability to make a deal.”
“I haven’t asked my parents for money since sixth grade,” he said. “I like making money. I’m a businessman and the hustle is my style.”
Tyler Huffhines told the reporter that just two months earlier he’d purchased 40 pairs of shoes “from a guy,” and then sold them in a day. He said he’d been selling high-end shoes to sneakerheads since the seventh grade. Tyler explained that some kids would buy a pair of $300 sneakers for a party, then sell them back to him the following day for $150.
A believer in data collection, Tyler used several apps to monitor sneaker prices and compare the shoes by brand, size, and color. The former high school senior had clients throughout Milwaukee and Illinois.
The business-minded high school student didn’t just specialize in shoes. He purchased 25 desks for $20 each and then sold them the same day for $140 apiece. Tyler also had a used car dealer license and was selling about a dozen cars throughout the community. At the time of the interview, Tyler was studying for his real estate license.
Tyler credited his mother and high school teachers for helping him develop his business acumen. “Millionaires have six ways of making an income,” Tyler said. “I see myself moving on to bigger things to make more money.”
5. Authorities Are Trying to Determine if There’s a Link between the Huffhines’ Illegal Vape Cartridges and Recent Vaping Illnesses & Deaths
Law Enforcement is attempting to determine if the vape cartridges sold by Tyler and Jacob Huffhines are in any way connected to the recent illnesses and deaths attributed to vaping.
The ingredients listed on the packaging said each cartridge had just 5 mg of THC, but actually contained 1,000 mg. “It looks like candy,” Beth said. “It’s not candy. It’s highly potent drugs.” Most of the Huffhines’ clientele are believed to be local high school students but it’s not known if the brothers were selling their product in other states, authorities say.
Police have sent the THC oil and filled cartridges to a laboratory to determine if there are any harmful ingredients. Law enforcement said the THC came from California but they don’t know how it was delivered to Wisconsin.
As of September 10, at least six deaths have been attributed to vaping, but physicians still don’t know the exact cause. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 380 cases of lung disease are linked to vaping.
Beth added that Kenosha County authorities are “willing to work with any agency in this country,” to determine if the Huffines were responsible for “hurting the hundreds of people throughout the United States, especially Wisconsin.” The sheriff also revealed that law enforcement is looking for other individuals who may have been the Huffhines’ accomplices.