KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man is accused of running a 10-man operation that manufactured thousands of counterfeit vaping cartridges loaded with THC oil every day for almost two years, authorities said.
Kenosha County prosecutors said 20-year-old Tyler Huffhines had employees make professionally packaged cartridges. Authorities said the employees filled about 3,000 to 5,000 cartridges per day and were sold for $16 each.
“Based on how everything was set up, this was a very high-tech operation that was running for some time,” Andrew Burgoyne, Kenosha County assistant district attorney, said during a Monday court hearing to set bond. Police said the business started in January 2018.
Police arrested Huffhines on Thursday. He was being held on a $500,000 cash bond while he awaits charges to be filed. He was due in court Friday.
His attorney, Mark Richards, did not respond to an email or a phone message left at his office.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Kenosha Drug Operations Group and other agencies executed search warrants at two homes. The Kenosha News reports that authorities seized 188 pounds (85 kilograms) of marijuana, THC oil, eight firearms, and about $20,000 in cash.
The arrest comes as health officials investigate 450 possible cases in 33 states where vaping was linked to a severe lung disease. Kansas reported its first death tied to the outbreak on Friday. Nationwide, as many as six people have died.
Health officials have warned against buying counterfeit vaping cartridges. It’s unknown if the Wisconsin operation has been linked to any illnesses.
No single vaping device, liquid or ingredient has been tied to all the illnesses. But recent attention has been focused on devices, liquids, refill pods and cartridges that are not sold in stores.
New York state has focused its investigation on an ingredient called Vitamin E acetate, which has been used to thicken marijuana vape juice but is considered dangerous if heated and inhaled.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also investigating Vitamin E acetate, but officials said they’re looking at several other ingredients as well. Last week, the CDC warned against buying vaping products off the street because the substances in them may be unknown. The agency also warned against modifying vaping products or adding any substances not intended by the manufacturer.
This isn’t the first time Huffhines has made it into the headlines. Last year, the Kenosha News wrote a feature story about him when he was an 18-year-old Central High School student, selling athletic shoes online. The story’s headline was “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”