Student faces lengthy prison spell for drug-dealing iOS app

By

Mascot 2
The app was named after UC Santa Cruz's banana slug mascot.
Photo: Mike Fernwood/Flickr CC

Drugs on a college campus? To paraphrase an old Apple slogan, it turns out there’s an app for that.

Created by 18-year-old University of California, Santa Cruz student Collin Riley Howard, the Banana Plug app allegedly allowed customers to place orders for drugs — including cocaine, “Molly” and “shrooms” — from the comfort of their iOS devices. Howard then communicated with buyers via Snapchat to set up the sale, authorities say.

The illicit entrepreneur allegedly put up posters advertising the app around the U.C. Santa Cruz campus. He was busted when a campus police officer, in coordination with Homeland Security Investigations, went undercover to buy various illegal drugs using the Banana Plug app. According to a Department of Justice press release:

“Upon discovering the posters and the application, a UC Santa Cruz police officer, in coordination with HSI, used the application to request a purchase of marijuana and cocaine and then communicated with Howard via Snapchat to set up the purchase.  An undercover HSI agent made that purchase and separately continued to communicate with Howard on Snapchat to set up three additional purchases of controlled substances. The third and fourth purchases were for more than 5 grams of methamphetamine. At the fourth meeting, UC Santa Cruz police officers arrested Howard before any payment was made.”

How did Banana Plug drug app get approved?

Authorities arrested Howard for distribution and possession with intent to distribute in November 2018. Arrested on the federal charges earlier this week, Howard was released following an initial indictment. He faces a potential several decades behind bars and millions of dollars in fines.

Needless to say, apps that promote illicit drug use fall afoul of Apple’s terms and conditions for the App Store. However, sneaky developers continue to find ways to circumvent Apple’s guidelines.

It’s not clear exactly how the Banana Plug app snuck past Apple’s usually rigorous App Store monitors. However, it seems likely that Howard did not spell out the exact nature of his app. The “Banana Plug” referenced in its name refers to U.C. Santa Cruz’s mascot, The Banana Slug.

Via: Los Angeles Times