One of the more infamous figures in the Valley's rave scene and local party monster lore has resurfaced in the media recently after being featured on the popular National Geographic Channel reality show Locked Up Abroad.
Shaun Attwood, the British-born gentleman who was the onetime kingpin of a massive local ecstasy drug ring (and a major promoter in the Phoenix underground dance party community) more than a decade ago, was profiled on a recent episode of the docudrama series titled "Raving Arizona." Besides chronicling the rise and fall of Attwood, who was known to many by his former moniker "English Shaun," and his Molly-dealing empire, it provides a look into the local rave scene of the late '90s and yet another frightening glimpse into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails.
See Also: - Evil Empire (The 2002 New Times Cover Story on Shaun Attwood) - Joe Arpaio's Cockroaches, White Supremacists and More from Ex-Ecstasy Kingpin Shaun Attwood - Joe Arpaio's Gulags, As Experienced by a Limey
More than 11 years ago, New Times documented Attwood's ecstasy-dealing exploits and how he amassed millions of dollars from 1997 to 2002 and led a utterly debaucherous party lifestyle filled with sex, drugs, and electronic dance music in a cover story by former writers Susy Buchanan and Brendan Joel Kelley. The in-depth piece also provided a glimpse at the Valley's rave scene, which was at its absolute zenith at the time.
The "Raving Arizona" episode of Locked Up Abroad, which aired at the end of April, covers much of the same ground, including how Attwood moved to Arizona in the early '90s and went from being a frustrated stockbroker to becoming a party king of metro Phoenix who had to battle with infamous former mob boss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who was also dealing E via a competing drug-trafficking syndicate around that time and, like English Shaun, was ultimately busted by the cops.
Here's an excerpt from the 2002 feature that also captures the rise and fall of Attwood's "evil empire" of MDMA and EDM, as well as wild rager he put on inside a local hotel suite that was filled with sex and drugs.
It was a full two days later that the fete finally trickled to a close. The villa sustained considerable damage. Picture frames were destroyed, and glass was strewn throughout the villa. A lampshade caught fire. There were craters in the walls where English Shaun had smashed his head while high on GHB, a liquid anesthetic. Dried wax covered the carpeting and bed, a souvenir of Shaun and Will having hot candle wax dripped on their naked bodies by strippers.
Looking back, the people who were there that day couldn't have realized that this would be the pinnacle of their decadence, the crest of a wave that now threatens to drown them.
Arizonans are by now familiar with Sammy "The Bull" Gravano's exploits as leader of an ecstasy ring, which he ran with the help of his son Gerard and a group of thugs called the Devil Dogs, until his arrest in 2000. Few, however, are familiar with Gravano's contemporary -- and, some would say, competitor -- English Shaun, and the organization he reportedly referred to as "the Evil Empire."
Investigators from city and federal agencies who have been tracking English Shaun since January 2000 now charge that for years he piloted a syndicate of drug importers and distributors that supplied the bulk of ecstasy in the early days of the Valley's rave scene, and eventually branched out to include meth, pharmaceuticals, designer drugs and marijuana. In the process, it made English Shaun an urban legend in the rave underground.
This aforementioned lore surrounding Attwood now has a new life thanks to the Locked Up Abroad episode, which you can watch for yourself after the jump.
In the episode, as in the New Times cover story, both the MDMA and EDM-filled ragers are re-created (and kind of glamorized a bit, owing to the conceit of making interesting television) including wild parties in hotel rooms and warehouses.
It also covers how English Shaun and a dozen different associates were busted in May 2002 by a team of local and federal officials and charged with a total of 155 felony violations. Attwood was eventually sentenced to 9½ years in jail and served around five in both county and state lockups before being deported back to the UK in 2007 via a legal loophole and ultimately barred from ever returning to America.
Unsurprisingly, Attwood provides an unflattering portrayal life behind bars in Sheriff Joe's custody in the episode, as he's previously described for New Times scribe Stephen Lemons in 2010, covering the deplorable conditions and how he witnessed "numerous human rights violations."
"The food we had to eat there was moldy and rotten, so food poisoning was common," he states on the show. "There's hundreds of guys sharing needles and tattoo instruments. It was rife with disease . . . AIDS, TB. We'd get these skin infections and bedsores that itch and bleed. The place was a living hell. How am I gonna survive? I'm not a tough guy."
The episode also mentions how 62 inmates died in the Maricopa County jail system from 2003 to 2007 during the period when Attwood was behind bars.
During his time in the county hoosegow, Attwood kept a diary of the horrors, which were smuggled out via his aunt during jailhouse visits and became posts on his famous blog "Jon's Jail Journal," which he maintains to this day. The writings also became the basis of his 2010 book, Hard Time. A second tome devoted to his time in the local rave scene, Party Time, was released earlier this year.
Since returning to England, Attwood has become a motivational speaker who appears at colleges and high schools around Europe and cautions teens and 20-somethings about the evils of drug addiction.
Attwood's exploits were also recently recounted via an interview on Vice's website entitled "I Used My Stock Market Millions to Throw Raves and Sell Drugs."
He's also become an outspoken activist against Arpaio and has been spreading awareness online and via social media of the sheriff's misdeeds and the horrors of the county's jail system that he endured, as well as helping stump for the recent recall effort aimed at taking down Maricopa County's top cop. The episode of Locked Up Abroad helps do just that and give some extra ammunition for the Shurf's foes.jou
Interestingly enough, however, the episode also provided some humorous material for cable comedienne Chelsea Lately, who featured a clip from "Raving Arizona" the night after the show aired and joshed on how Attwood's story (or how "a bald man ended up in prison after taking ecstasy," as she described it) will encourage her to never take illegal drugs while on vacation.
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Despite getting sassed by Lately, Attwood's comments on his Facebook indicated he's happy with the episode and that it could help in his fight against Arpaio.
"Thanks to Nat Geo and Raw TV, I've finally realised the dream I set when I stated blogging 10 years ago of showing what really goes on in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail to the American public," Attwood wrote.