Longform

Evil Empire

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Sammy the Bull had the name, and his ride on the ecstasy merry-go-round made headlines around the nation when the former hit man was arrested. The drug, and the rave scene that favored it, had sprung up seemingly out of nowhere. The quantities of pills he brought into the Valley at the time were unheard of. But law enforcement sources now agree that while Gravano had muscle and flash, he was no English Shaun. Gravano lacked Shaun's intelligence, organization, and diverse array of products, they say. They also claim that Attwood easily moved millions of dollars' worth of meth, ecstasy, pharmaceuticals and marijuana through parties and raves in the Valley over the past few years, and they are careful to qualify that estimate as conservative. English Shaun was bigger, in other words, than Sammy the Bull.

And in more ways than one. Attwood is tall, lanky and bald, with pale white skin and pinched features. His accent is where the "English" comes from, a Mad Hatter tea-time lilt. He has braces on his teeth, his lips are thin and pursed, and his blue eyes glimmer mischievously, even in a mug shot. Friends and former roommates describe him as a sort of vampire — largely nocturnal, with a thirst for the GHB they say he drank like blood, and a more than passing resemblance to Nosferatu. He could be proper, charming, polite, with an intelligence that matched his magnetism.

Attwood came over from the U.K. in the early '90s, working as a stockbroker. The National Association of Securities Dealers reports that in 1999, while working in the Valley, "Attwood was censured, fined $68,016.90, and barred from association with any NASD member in any capacity." The sanctions were based on findings that Attwood and an associate "engaged in excessive trading in a customer account. Attwood also failed to respond to NASD requests for information."

Coen, who formerly dealt Attwood's ecstasy and used his funds to promote raves, remembers him back then. He was "like a guy from a big brokerage house in London [who] had somehow walked into the wrong party but was having a really great time," he recalls. "He seemed out of place, but he was outgoing enough that he made people quickly forget it and just accept English Shaun as part of the overall weirdness around them."

That weirdness was an inherent element of the nascent rave scene, populated by glitter girls, drag queens, club kids in rabbit ears, and fueled by music and drugs. Coen was a part of it, too — and he was among the first to stake out its enormous built-in drug market, long before Shaun went from being a stockbroker to an "E" broker.

Now 30, Coen graduated from Arizona State University in 1993 with an arts degree. He lives alone in an elegant four-bedroom home in Tempe. He says he began frequenting the rave scene purely as a raver, not a dealer, just before and after graduation. "Raves and dropping E every weekend was a symptom of my senioritis," he says.

In '93 and '94, he says, there was no organized system of dealing in the Valley. "The scene then was really just a few hundred ravers. The scene hadn't reached the critical mass of people who were into it and doing E as a part of the whole experience, where someone would look at the possibilities and see a profit potential."

But that all changed in the summer of 1995. Before then, Coen says, anyone could fly to San Francisco or New York and bring back a supply for the weekend's parties, making enough money to cover the plane ticket while still having a couple "rolls" of E left over. But as the scene grew, so did demand.

Coen saw that he could easily subsidize his lifestyle by selling E on the side, he says. Corresponding with this realization, or perhaps inspiring it, was a visit to an ASU frat brother who had moved to Hollywood to be a script-reader and had delved into L.A.'s underground club scene. The script-reader kept a jade ashtray full of E tablets in his bedroom.



Coen's friend said the E came from a cocktail waitress in a techno club on the Vegas strip. Although the script-reader refused to link Coen directly with his source, they negotiated a deal: Coen could phone in an order with five days' notice, then fly to L.A. to pick it up — $1,200 for 100 pills, a price he later negotiated down to $5,000 for 500 pills, the maximum order his friend would allow.

Two weeks later, Coen flew to L.A. and returned with 300 pills. "We got rid of them in one weekend, just me and a few friends working three parties." Besides a private party and a rave at the Icehouse, there was an easy market at Chupa, the legendary Phoenix after-hours nightclub where gay pretty boys and drag queens — two key factions in the founding of every major city's rave scene — congregated once the raves in Phoenix began to attract young suburban "candy ravers."

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Susy Buchanan
Brendan Joel Kelley