Huffhines update: Alleged leader of black market THC scandal rejects plea deal
Tyler Huffhines, the alleged leader of a massive black market operation manufacturing illegal THC cartridges out of Wisconsin, is rejecting a plea offer that recommended a shortened prison sentence of six years. Huffhines, 20, is being charged with six felonies, including three counts of possession of contraband THC in excess of 10,000 grams with intent to deliver
Tyler’s brother Jacob was also arrested in the 2019 sting along with his mother, Courtney, and four others charged for being employed by the illegal operation. During a court hearing in mid-January, documents reveal that 23-year-old Tarail King admitted to transporting THC wax from Colorado to California on behest of the Huffhines’ business. 20-year-old Wesley Webb was apparently also involved as a delivery driver.
Daniel Graumenz, 19, has made bond after acknowledging in open court that he had been employed by the Huffhines at $20 per hour to fill thousands of empty vape cartridges with the contraband THC concoction. The judge seemed to take pity on the youngest member of the illegal drug ring by lowering his bond to $4,000 cash. The only defendants still in custody are the Huffhines brothers.
Arrests coincided with the so-called EVALI outbreak
In early September of 2019, news began surfacing in the mainstream media of a supposedly mysterious outbreak of lung injuries that appeared to be “vaping related.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the very first diagnoses came out of Wisconsin – home state of the Huffhines’ operation.
While this strange combination of events may be mere coincidence, the numbers of cases would quickly increase and expand to nearly every state in the country. Eventually, the CDC would blame at least six deaths to the new-found respiratory disorder that it would quickly name EVAKLI – an acronym for “e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.”
CDC finds contraband THC carts – not nicotine vapes – responsible for EVALI
Yet even as far back as last October, the evidence was mounting against THC-containing products illegally manufactured on the black market as the true cause of the “vaping related” disorder. After several months of spreading disinformation repeatedly implying that conventional nicotine-based vapes were somehow associated with EVALI, the CDC was finally forced to set the record straight in a February, 25, 2020 press release.
“Due to continued declines in new EVALI cases since September 2019, and the identification of vitamin E acetate as a primary cause of EVALI, today’s release is the final biweekly CDC update on the number of hospitalized EVALI cases and deaths nationally. CDC will continue to provide assistance to states, as needed, related to EVALI and will provide future updates as needed at: www.cdc.gov/lunginjury.”
Then came the coronavirus pandemic– whose first case reported in the United States took place in late January right before the release of the CDC press release. The virus took the country by storm, and President Trump even imposed a stay-at-home order for a couple of weeks later that spring. In Wisconsin and several other states, the judicial systems slowed to a crawl as courthouses imposed highly restrictive social distancing measures. Almost simultaneously, prisons and jails were releasing convicts early so as to avoid their possible infection with COVID-19.
Huffhines, ‘Yes, ma’am. I reject it.’
Throughout those early months of the pandemic, attorneys for Tyler Huffhines were trying to strike a plea deal with the Kenosha County prosecutor, Lesli Boese. By July 1, a plea deal was offered and rejected that, had Huffines accepted, would have reduced his charges to only two counts of illegal possession of THC with intent to sell and one count of identify theft (Courtney Huffhines, Tyler and Jacob’s mother, had also been charged in the manufacturing of several falsified IDs for various employees in the operation).
Per the proposed Huffhines plea deal, all other charges would have been dropped, and Tyler would have only served six years in prison. However, the offer was contingent on Tyler’s attorneys forgoing their rights to file motions in the case. When Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Mary K. Wagner asked Huffhines if he understood the offer, he responded, “Yes, ma’am. I reject it.”
(Images courtesy of CBS Channel 58, KENOSHA COUNTY, Wisconsin)