UC Santa Cruz student charged with creating 'Banana Plug' drug app
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KTVU) - An 18-year old from Sunnyvale has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he was dealing drugs on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Authorities say he created an app to help him interact with his customers.
UCSC student Collin Howard developed an app called Banana Plug, proudly displaying flyers for it around campus, according to investigators.
Now they believe, it was a front for an extensive drug dealing operation.
"I think the unique aspect of this is that he developed an app," said UC Santa Cruz Police Chief Nader Oweis
UCSC Police got a tip last October to look into Banana Plug. The name was apparently a play on words, combining the school mascot the Banana Slug and a slang word for drug dealer.
It allegedly offered everything from cocaine, to molly (also known as MDMA/ecstasy) to mushrooms for sale.
Once campus police realized the extent of the operation, they say they invited Homeland Security Investigators to work with them.
"We were able to make contact with him and from that contact were able to make some undercover buys," Owesis said.
Howard was arrested on campus. And just this week, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of possession with intent to distribute.
If convicted, he faces between 5 and 40 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
Students on campus are surprised. One of them, Thomas Grass, said, "I saw the flyers. I thought it was kind of weird. I didn't really know what it was. And yeah, I think it's pretty surprising that somebody would do that."
Howard, who is 18-years-old, is originally from Sunnyvale and had just started at UC Santa Cruz in the fall.
Oweis said, "What's sad is truly that the student was only here for less than a month before he was out here and tried to sell these types of hard narcotics."
Howard had been studying computer science. Officials at UCSC say he is no longer enrolled.
"He could have done some great things like cancer research. He could have even created the app for art and entertainment and other things on the campus. And the fact that he chose to do it this way is just a shame."
Howard's federal public defender Rhona Taylor didn't respond to a phone call and email query from the Associated Press.
Howard was released Tuesday after his initial court appearance. His next court date is February 22nd.