A stunning Wisconsin drug bust may help explain why vapers have been getting sick and dying, the New York Times reports. Police recently burst into a condo in a quiet subdivision and found an operation for filling vaping cartridges with THC-laced liquid. The raid netted 31,200 filled cartridges, 98,000 empty ones, and 57 jars containing liquid THC along with typical drug-empire stuff like cash and guns, per ABC News. Police also collared two young brothers, 20-year-old Tyler Huffhines and 23-year-old Jacob Huffhines, who are now held on mostly drug-related charges. "When we walked in there, we were like, 'Oh boy,'" says Waukesha Police Capt. Dan Baumann. "This is what we were looking for, but we did not know it was this big."
Officials say operations like this could explain the recent spate of vaping-linked illnesses and deaths. Such illicit operators buy cartridges and fake packaging in China, then fill the cartridges with THC liquid bought in America—but because the liquid is pricey, it's often cut with substances like vitamin E acetate that can be dangerous. The profit must be tempting: Police say the Huffhines hired at least 10 people for $20 an hour to produce roughly 3,000 cartridges a day that sold for about $35 to $40 each. How this alleged operation affected vapers is unclear, but authorities are investigating. "I'm glad we caught it," Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth tells WCVB. "If this one is out there, there's other ones out there." (Read more about vitamin E acetate.)