UC Santa Cruz student accused of creating app to sell illegal drugs scheduled to appear in court

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- A former UC Santa Cruz student appeared in federal court Friday afternoon on multiple charges related to an app that prosecutors say he created to sell illegal drugs.

Collin Howard, 18, of Sunnyvale, will remain out of custody on a $50,000 unsecured bond, co-signed by his father, but with special conditions as determined by a federal judge.

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Prosecutors say the "Banana Plug" app appeared to be a game. It debuted in the App Store last fall, but has since been taken down by Apple.

The app's name appears to be a play on the university's mascot, the banana slug, with the word "plug" often used as a slang term for someone who deals drugs.

A joint sting operation involving Homeland Security. and campus police resulted in Howard's initial arrest last November.

Howard has now been charged with three counts related to the distribution and possession with intent to distribute meth and one count related to cocaine. He pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Feb. 19.

"We were able to make contact with him, and from that contact, were able to make some undercover buys," said UC Santa Cruz Police Chief Nader Oweis.

RELATED: UC Santa Cruz student faces federal drug charges for app

Cameras weren't allowed inside the courtroom, but Howard appeared to be lightheaded toward the end of Friday's hearing. He took off his jacket to fan himself and then asked for water from his attorney.

As part of his release terms, Howard has agreed to undergo drug, alcohol, and mental health counseling, and also enter a residential treatment program.

If convicted, Howard faces decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines. He returns to court in early April.
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