Wisconsin officials are investigating whether an illegal THC-infused vape cartridge production operation allegedly run by two brothers is linked to a host of vaping-related deaths and lung diseases across the country.
Tyler Huffhines, 20, and Jacob Huffhines, 23, were arrested earlier this month after investigators executed search permits at a home in Paddock Lake and a condominium in Bristol, both about 40 miles south of Milwaukee.
The raid revealed what Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth described to reporters Wednesday as a "big, big (drug) operation," involving the production of very potent THC-infused vape cartridges. Officials described it as an "empire of illegal drugs," reported Fox 6.
Police said they seized around $ 1.5 million with drugs and 31,000 vape cartridges filled with one gram of liquid THC, 100,000 empty cartridges and 57 mason jars filled with THC oil – worth around $ 6,000 each. The cartridges were reportedly wrapped in colorful wrappers to mimic candy. THC is the most important psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Investigators said they uncovered the operation after the parents of a high school boy who was sold a THC vape cassette brought him to the police station. The boy provided information to police who eventually led them to the Huffhines brothers, according to officials.
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"These parents were brave for what they did," Waukesha County Police Chief Dan Baumann said this during a news conference last Wednesday. "They should be famous."
The operation's coverage coincided with nearly 400 cases of vaping-related lung disease and at least six deaths reported across the country.
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The Huffhines brothers were held in Kenosha County Jail on charges related to the drug bust, WISN reported. An investigation was underway and officials said several arrests were likely as investigators sought out others related to the operation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.