UC Santa Cruz Student Indicted For Selling Drugs Through Software Application
SAN JOSE - A federal grand jury in San Jose indicted Collin Riley Howard, charging him with distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin. Howard made his initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins.
According to the indictment, filed Thursday, between November 7, 2018, and November 28, 2018, Howard, 18, of Sunnyvale, possessed and distributed cocaine and methamphetamine.
An affidavit filed by a Homeland Security Investigations agent in connection with a search warrant alleges that Howard developed the “Banana Plug” application, which was available on the Apple App Store. The Banana Plug App offered for sale contraband, including cocaine, “Molly,” and “Shrooms.” The app also invited customers to make special requests. Posters advertising the application had been hung up around the UC Santa Cruz campus. 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.
The indictment charges Howard with one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C); one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C); one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(viii); and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(viii).
Howard was arrested on the federal charges on February 15, 2019, and was released after today’s initial appearance. Magistrate Judge Cousins scheduled Howard’s next court appearance for February 22, 2019, at 1:30 for a bail review hearing.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years prison time, and a fine of $1,000,000 for each of the two violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). He faces a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, and a fine of $5,000,000 for each of two violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(viii). However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Griswold is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Laurie Worthen. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the University of California Santa Cruz Police Department.