UCSC Student Faces Federal Drug Indictment


Former UC Santa Cruz student and Cowell College affiliate Collin Riley Howard now faces a federal indictment for allegedly selling cocaine and methamphetamines during the beginning of this school year. If he is found guilty on all charges, he faces a possible maximum of 120 years in prison and $12 million in fines.

“We were deeply troubled to learn an undergraduate […] was allegedly selling illegal and dangerous drugs to our community,” said UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason in an email. “We take seriously the safety of our campus community and work hard to protect our  students.” 

After a month-long investigation that began in October, on Nov. 28 the UCSC Police Department (UCSC PD) arrested Howard, 18, on charges of possessing and distributing cocaine and methamphetamine. Howard plead not guilty to all counts and posted bail shortly after. 

UCSC PD began investigating the case after receiving a tip about a phone application called “Banana Plug” and noticing flyers posted around campus advertising the application. Howard allegedly created the app, which was formerly available on the Apple Store and offered the sale of contraband drugs. 

The campus police department asked Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for assistance due to the potential scale of the case. The department worked with HSI to set up a sting operation, and requested to buy marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines from Howard a total of four times to build their case. The third and fourth purchases were for more than five grams of methamphetamine. Police used Howard’s application to begin the setup and Snapchat to continue the transactions. UCSC police arrested Howard during the fourth meetup before payment. 

“It’s pretty disappointing […] that somebody with the skills to create an app would use those skills in a way that could harm our community rather than do something positive,” said UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis. 

The investigation into Howard’s case is concluded, but whether or not others were involved in the operation remains under investigation. 

Howard was arrested on the federal charges on Feb. 15 and will return for his next court appearance on Feb. 22 for a bail review hearing at the San Jose Courthouse. 

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Karen Lowe is a city reporter at City on a Hill Press. Beginning her career as a fact-checker, she gained a passion for asking questions and getting stories right. She believes using facts is a key part in supplementing the human voice. Since her time as a fact-checker, she has worked as a campus reporter and editor—reading, talking and asking questions to uncover stories hidden in the community—social media editor and arts and culture reporter. You can view her work here or on her website at karenkayelowe.com . She can be contacted at klowe@cityonahillpress.com and followed on Twitter @karenkayelowe.