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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

College student accused of using smartphone app to sell drugs

A University of California at Santa Cruz freshman has been indicted on multiple counts of drug possession with the intent to distribute. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California say that the 18-year-old man created a smartphone application that his fellow students could use to order drugs including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy. The man was indicted on Feb. 14 and released from custody on Feb. 19. If he is found guilty on all charges, he could spend decades in prison and be fined millions of dollars.

According to prosecutors, students were able to download the application, which was called 'Banana Plug" and disguised as a game, from the Apple App Store. The man is said to have advertised his services by placing flyers in several prominent locations around the college campus. Apple has since removed the application from its online store.

After learning about the scheme, undercover police officers made three drug purchases from the man using the application according to media outlets. The transactions were completed using the messaging service Snapchat. The man was taken into custody during a fourth alleged drug transaction. A university representative said that the man is no longer attending the school but refused to give a reason for his departure due to privacy laws.

Criminal defense attorneys may advise individuals charged with serious drug crimes to make no statements to law enforcement without first consulting with legal counsel, and this is especially true when what they say could be contradicted by evidence found on electronic devices. Cases like this one are usually resolved with a plea agreement, and convincing prosecutors to be lenient could be more difficult if defendants have strengthened their cases by making full and frank confessions or misled the police.

Source: Oxygen, "College Student Busted For Allegedly Setting Up Drug-Selling App Called 'Banana Plug'", Eric Shorey, Feb. 21, 2019

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