Colin Howard, an 18-year-old college freshman, is facing charges for allegedly creating an app to sell drugs, calling it “Banana Plug.”
This was not a one-time offense. Howard had previously been arrested on Nov. 28 in his college dorm on the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was faced with similar charges, and he pleads not guilty. After being indicted on Feb.18, he has again pleaded not guilty.
According to the prosecutor, the investigation began when a police officer noticed a poster advertising the app. The word ‘plug’ is slang for a drug dealer, and the ‘banana’ came from the school mascot: a banana slug.
The app could be downloaded from the Apple store, and it was advertised as a free game. The motto read as: “We Have What You Want.” Allegedly, users could place drug orders through the app. According to authorities, it offered a variety of drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, “molly” or “ecstasy,” and “shrooms” or psychedelic mushrooms.
Campus police worked alongside the Department of Homeland Security officers to investigate. They went undercover, posing as buyers, and completed four buys using the app. Their purchases included marijuana, cocaine, and over five grams of methamphetamine. This led them to their culprit and to make their arrest.
Scott Hernandez-Jason, a spokesman for the school, reportedly said that Howard is “no longer a student at UC Santa Cruz.” Student privacy laws keep the circumstances of this unclear, so the public does not know if he left voluntarily or was expelled.
If convicted, Howard could face millions of dollars in fines and decades in prison.
Banana Plug isn’t the first app or online digital platform used for illegal activity. In the current day and age, the internet can be utilized for criminal purposes. The dark web, for example, is a part of the internet only accessible by special software. This “dark web” allows users to remain anonymous. For a few years, the Silk Road was a website on the dark web that worked as a black-market. The transaction took place through bitcoin, a crypto-currency.
Even without the use of the dark web, crime can often be carried out over the web. The Washington Post cites Grindr, a dating app for gay men, to be regularly used for drug deals.
It’s not difficult to see crime through the internet to grow as it becomes more popular and widely-used.