California college student charged with creating iPhone app to sell drugs

A freshman at the University of California Santa Cruz is facing decades in jail and millions in fines or allegedly selling drugs through an app he called “Banana Plug.”

Collin Riley Howard, 18, was charged “with distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine,” according to the indictment filed Thursday by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California.

Police discovered the app, which offered the sale of cocaine, “molly” and “shrooms,” after finding posters advertising it on campus. The app, which was available in Apple’s App Store, also encouraged users to make special requests.

The name “Banana Plug” seems to be a play on the school’s mascot the banana slug and the slang term plug, meaning drug dealer.

Undercover Homeland Security agents used the app to purchase marijuana and cocaine in November 2018. Agents also contacted Howard through Snapchat to set up the purchase of additional controlled substances, including methamphetamine, on three other occasions.

On the fourth meeting, campus police arrested Howard in his dorm room. He pleaded not guilty to the federal drug charges and was released after the initial hearing.

University spokesman Scott Hernandez-Jason told the Associated Press that Howard is “no longer a student UC Santa Cruz,” but declined to say if he was expelled or voluntarily withdrew due to student privacy laws.

If Howard is convicted, the two cocaine-related charges bear a maximum sentence of 20 years prison time and a fine of $1,000,000 each, while the two charges related to methamphetamine carry a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 40 years, and a fine of $5,000,000.

Howard is scheduled to appear in court Friday for a bail review hearing.

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Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

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