Evil Empire

Investigators say he was bigger than Sammy the Bull. His minions say he ruled the drug trade in the Valley's rave scene. Now, authorities have "English Shaun," the man they claim reigned over a nighttime empire of ecstasy, meth, violence and excess.


Marcus lives in a nondescript one-story ranch house in Tempe. Ring the doorbell and a Doberman pinscher barks like hell. Marcus opens a medieval-castle-style security plate in the door that reveals his eyes, then he unlatches three deadbolts and opens a heavy oak door. He is wearing jeans and an ASU tee shirt.

Virtually a third of Marcus' living room is taken up with boxes of action figures and unassembled plastic models — from Star Wars and Star Trek, plus the entire line of new Spiderman figures, even a few Battlestar Galactica figures from the late '70s. It's a huge pile of hundreds of collectibles, all still in their boxes, haphazardly dumped on the living room floor.

In the days when the rave scene was burgeoning, former dealers remember selling 100 pills of ecstasy "in 10 minutes."
Kevin Scanlon
In the days when the rave scene was burgeoning, former dealers remember selling 100 pills of ecstasy "in 10 minutes."
Authorities describe Peter Mahoney as the Empire's lead enforcer.
Todd H. Lillard
Authorities describe Peter Mahoney as the Empire's lead enforcer.

Marcus feels inclined to explain: "Some dude owed me a lot of money. He paid me in action figures." He shrugs at the unlikely inventory. "Such is the business I'm in."

Marcus is a coke dealer, not a toy collector, and a former ecstasy associate of English Shaun. Now he's 29, attending graduate school at ASU and trafficking in cocaine. He'll continue dealing coke until he's through with school, he says.

"Now I have to sell this shit to get my money," he says, referring to the merchandise filling his living room. "I'm living on eBay, bidding out Boba Fett dolls to Star Wars geeks who want to know if the missile on his jetpack is painted red or yellow, because yellow is way more rare or some shit like that. . . . The guy's tab had gotten up to about three grand and he promised me this collection was worth twice that, but I don't know. I'm like, what, Star Wars toys are legal tender for cokeheads now?"

Marcus sells about an ounce of cocaine a week, profiting around $500. He has a regular clientele and makes his rounds every night in Tempe bars, and in nightclubs in Phoenix and Scottsdale.

"The people I sell to are mostly professionals with something to lose," he says. "They're not going to buy an eight ball off me, then snort up half of it, do something stupid and get arrested."

Marcus has been involved in the Phoenix rave scene from its beginnings in '92 and '93.

It wasn't until 1995, after graduating from college, that, like Coen, he decided to deal E. "When I first started dealing E, it wasn't about making a lot of money. It really wasn't," he says. "What it was really about was being able to maintain my lifestyle of not having to have a job, and being able to afford to go to all the raves and clubs I wanted and buy all the records I wanted and still have an apartment and a car and a new pair of kicks to wear out every two months from dancing on so many warehouse floors, right?

"Plus, I was able to convince myself that I wasn't a drug dealer, I was a servant to the scene. Like, I'm bringing the love tablets to the masses. Obviously, I was high on my supply. But like I said, it was a different time. The E then was still really good, a lot of it, so I felt like I was selling optimism in a pill."

He remembers first hearing about English Shaun in early 1996, around the time of a party called "Icey." The touchy-feely effects of E were in full force that night.

"They had this big bouncy castle out in the parking lot at that party, and I was all E'd out lying in there, because of course by about 1 a.m. it had turned into a big cuddle-puddle chill room. . . . Everyone was coming down a little bit off their first pill, probably, and feeling more touchy-feely.

"This chick was sitting behind me with her legs over my shoulders, so my neck is pressed between her legs, and she's like rubbing on the back of my neck and massaging my shoulders by flexing her thighs, right? It was awesome."

Marcus takes a moment to savor the memory.

"Anyway, she starts talking about this guy English Shaun, how she bought her E from English Shaun, and how it was from London and it was pharmaceutical and it was really, really clean."

About this time in the scene, the first batches of bad E were showing up; either having no effect or making kids sick. For the first time, kids were beginning to pay close attention to the symbols stamped on E pills, to keep track of what brand they were taking.

"This chick who was giving me the neck massage, she told everyone in the cuddle-puddle that the E she bought from English Shaun wasn't even a pill, it was just white powder in a capsule, like a Tylenol, and I hadn't even heard of E coming that way yet."

At that time, Marcus was selling "Pumpkin Seed" Es, so named because of their shape and size; he bought them from a local middle man for $15 each, then re-selling the pills for $20 per. "I would go through 50 pills in a weekend, easy," he says. "I'd usually sell all 50 at one party, on a Friday night, then buy another 50 on Saturday and get rid of those, too. If I had a few left over, there was always some after-party at someone's house where they'd decided to keep the party rolling through Sunday night. And if you showed up there with a bag of 15 or 20 pills, you were the hero."

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