Evil Empire

Page 10 of 12

What they expected to be an ecstasy-based operation took on greater proportions: methamphetamine, LSD, marijuana, cocaine, Xanax, morphine, somas, Valium, GHB.

Shaun was careful on the phone, police sources note, which they say explains the scant nine charges against him. He would meet to discuss details of his business in parking lots of supermarkets, shopping malls, or at restaurants like Malee's on Main.

But by May 16, law enforcement — which by now included U.S. Customs, the DEA, and Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe police — had heard enough. They picked up Shaun at his girlfriend's apartment in Scottsdale just after 7 a.m. A source close to the investigation describes his living conditions as squalor, with sex toys on the floor and trash strewn around the apartment.

Attwood denies the charges against him, and at their arraignments in May, all 13 entered pleas of not guilty. "I am shocked and appalled at the seriousness of these charges," Attwood said. On his booking record, he listed "sales" as his occupation.

Where Shaun's money went is another piece of the puzzle prosecutors are slowly putting together. An account in Attwood's name has been seized with a little over $20,000; but sources close to the investigation say they suspect he may have off-shore accounts, and add that he has been known to use many aliases. Friends also say that any time a crony of Shaun's would make a trip overseas, they would courier out envelopes filled with cash. They say Shaun would bring his aging grandmother over to the U.S. for frequent medical treatment, then stuff the structure of her wheelchair with money before she rolled onto the plane and back to the U.K.

Those facing the most serious charges are Attwood, who is being charged as the ringleader; Peter Mahoney as the enforcer; Kerry Osborne as the administrator and dealer; Gary Menichello, who allegedly worked in meth; and Cody Bates and Sherwin Williams, who prosecutors maintain worked as dealers and smugglers. The other names on the indictment are involved on a significant yet peripheral level. Investigative sources warn of more indictments to come. This investigation, they say, is far from over.

It's just past 7:30 a.m. on June 28, and the waiting area outside Judge Michael Wilkinson's courtroom in Phoenix Superior Court is sterile in appearance, and morgue quiet. It's the initial pretrial conference for the 13 indicted in the English Shaun case. The last time they were all in the same room may have been when drugs and money were the foundations of their friendship. Now, it's hard to tell if any of them are friends at all.

The lucky have bonded out, such as 20-year-old Andrea Swanson. She was busted with a quarter-pound of meth in her car near Gila Bend in March; those charges will be refiled as part of this indictment. She is tall and rail-thin, her gawky limbs dangling from a prim striped sweater and long navy skirt. Her hip bones jut visibly through the fabric as she careens around the sterile space like a pinball. Loping, pirouetting, pacing, tapping, spinning and flitting in and out of the rest room. Her parents, Brock and Judith, are there, standing silently on opposite corners of the room.

Ten minutes later, Attwood's girlfriend, 19-year-old Amber Holwegner, arrives with a young man and her parents. She is relaxed, even giggly. She and her friends laugh at the aliases the prosecution has assigned to those indicted, especially those they've given to her boyfriend. "Wanker . . . Evil . . . ," she reads them off. "They just do that so they can embarrass people." The Dietrichs arrive next, distant relations of Attwood's, and they introduce themselves to Amber and her family. They are here to try to get Amber's boyfriend's bail reduced from $750,000. They will tell the judge they trust Attwood implicitly, and would gladly have English Shaun baby-sit their 4-year-old child. They will be unsuccessful in convincing Wilkinson.

Gary Menichello enters next. His hair is cut short, his belly hangs over his pants, he's got a stud in his left ear. He rocks back and forth on his feet, fidgeting. Gary's girlfriend Carina is still in custody. They fell in love years ago when Gary was a nationally known DJ who played clubs all over the country. Meth appears to have ended that career rather quickly, tweak eating away at his talent and destroying his reputation. The day he was arrested was his first day on the job as a fund raiser for the Republican party.

Andrea manages to unfold her arms from around her chest to wave a little hi at Gary and Angel Capdevilla, another woman named in the indictment who has just shown up. Andrea goes to the rest room again, then emerges with a newspaper crossword which she holds in front of her face as she sits and gnaws on a pen. She hops up and heads back to the rest room.

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Susy Buchanan
Brendan Joel Kelley