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UC Santa Cruz student indicted for allegedly using iOS app to sell drugs

The Banana Plug app let people purchase and make special requests for drugs, according to federal authorities.

Close of gavel in courtroom

If convicted, Collin Riley Howard could face up to 20 years in prison.

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Collin Riley Howard, a UC Santa Cruz student, was indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple charges last week for distribution and possession with the intent to distribute drugs like meth and cocaine. The twist? Howard, 18, developed an iPhone app to help him.

Between Nov. 7 and Nov. 28 of last year, the Banana Plug app allegedly advertised the sale of illegal substances and allowed customers to make special requests, according to a press release Tuesday from the US Attorney's Office.

Banana Plug, which reportedly advertised itself as a game, appears to have been removed from the App Store. Players would tap tiles that swapped between images of bananas and plugs. The goal was to clear the screen on bananas. The app's description said "We have what you want," Apple Insider reported.

The App Store guidelines strictly prohibits any app "facilitating the sale of marijuana, tobacco, or controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies)." Apple didn't immediately respond for comment.

Howard organized purchases through the app, Snapchat and posters on the Santa Cruz campus, whose mascot is the Banana Slug, according to the US Attorney's Office. UC Santa Cruz police and Homeland Security began communicating with Howard via an undercover officer. Over four transactions, the officer requested marijuana, cocaine and more than five grams of meth via the app before officials arrested Howard on Feb.15, according to the release.

Howard was released after appearing before US Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins and will have a bail review hearing Friday. Howard could face up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines if found guilty.

Howard couldn't immediately be reached for comment and it's unclear if he has a lawyer.

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