UC Santa Cruz Student Sold Drugs Through Mobile Gaming App, Feds Say
The game is called Banana Plug and its tagline is ‘We Have What You Want.’
A California college student has been charged with allegedly creating a mobile gaming app to sell drugs on campus, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Collin Howard, an 18-year-old college freshman at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was indicted by a federal grand jury for “distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California said in a press release.
Prosecutors alleged that last fall Howard developed Banana Plug, a mobile gaming app that paid homage to Sammy the Banana Slug, the school’s mascot.
On the app, which prompted users to change all the banana tiles into electrical plugs to “win” a game, advertised cocaine, “Molly,” and “shrooms,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said. “The app also invited customers to make special requests.”
To advertise his app, which was originally published to Apple’s App Store in October and updated twice in November, Howard allegedly hung posters around campus, catching the attention of UC Santa Cruz police.
Working in conjunction with an office of the Department of Homeland Security, an undercover agent used the app and Snapchat to buy marijuana and cocaine from the teen, prosecutors said.
The agent “continued to communicate with Howard on Snapchat to set up three additional purchases of controlled substances,” the release said. Authorities alleged that they bought more than 10 grams of methamphetamine between two transactions.
On Friday, during the fourth meeting with the undercover agent, UC Santa Cruz police officers arrested Howard on four charges before the final payment was made.
As of Wednesday morning, Banana Plug was still available for download via Apple along with its teaser description: “We Have What You Want.” The app page was no longer working, however, by Wednesday afternoon.
Apple and UC Santa Cruz did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Howard was release from custody after his initial court appearance Tuesday night, authorities said, and it was not immediately clear if he has retained an attorney. If convicted on both charges, the teen faces a maximum of multiple decades in prison and up to $10 million in fines.