Evil Empire

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From 1998 to 2000, Coen admits, he and Shaun did share a laundering arrangement: Shaun would transfer cash to Coen, who in turn would give him a check for 90 percent of the cash he'd received. The benefits to Coen were twofold: First, he got to keep 10 percent of whatever Shaun gave him; and second, he got investment money for his raves and club nights. If Shaun invested 10 grand — the most he ever put in — Shaun got nine grand back. And if the event made money, Shaun could actually profit on his investment, at the same 90 percent ratio.

Shaun almost always asked to be paid in checks drawn on a business account, Coen claims, logged as "promotional services" or "entertainment consulting."

It's all those old, canceled checks for $5,000 and $10,000 that now have Coen worried.

As his influence grew in the Valley's burgeoning rave scene, his former associates say English Shaun wielded his power with a combination of charisma, magnetism and generosity. "I think his outgoing personality collected an interesting assortment of individuals," says Ethan, a former importer and distributor of drugs for English Shaun. "He kept the party atmosphere going with his minions, to instill some sort of loyalty towards him. People find it harder to betray someone once they're known on a friendship level rather than a business level."

Shaun's recruiting, another associate adds, tended to target youths who needed the security and prestige that they thought a position within the Evil Empire might offer. "All through the years he would contract out essentially to these kids that had nowhere else to go," explains Will. "Maybe they had no credit histories, no rental histories, no jobs, nothing really going for him except they worked for him."

Attwood reportedly kept his street-level co-conspirators in apartments and townhomes that he financed under their names throughout the Valley, where they would run their operations. "They would be supplied an apartment," Will says. "Places like the Quads [in Tempe] and numerous other apartment complexes which were many times kind of overrun — a funnel of these fuckin' apartments per apartment complex. It's kind of a terrorist method, I guess, these cells. If you don't know about each other, you're not going to get busted. You know each other, but you're not associated with one another."

Of his own relationship with Shaun, Will continues, "The reason that I got along with him was that we were both intelligent business-wise and educationally . . . we both had something to offer each other. Really all of Shaun's interactions, if they didn't make him money, they weren't valuable. He always picked out the more intelligent people to be his chiefs or admirals. He usually didn't have to be authoritative with his underlings. He was Tony Soprano. It's not like he had to stress anything. He just said what he'd like to happen and it happened."

The key to Shaun's successes in the drug underworld, both these traffickers say, was his wealth and his organizational skills. "He came over here with money. The only reason that he was really English Shaun' is because he financed a lot of shit," Will says. "A lot of the product that was slung on the streets was first fronted out by him; his money was the origin. The other people would all be fronted drugs by him, they all owed him money. The people who owed him the most were closest to him, his best buds. People were really dedicated to different sections — this person dealt with this [drug], this other person dealt with the other [drug], and not knowing what was going on was really the key. The less informed [they were], the better — that was always the standard to be held by."

In 1997, the rave scene was reaching its boiling point. Some look back on those times as the halcyon days of the Evil Empire.

Back then, they point out, underground dance parties weren't yet on the authorities' radar screens. An ecstasy dealer could sell out his pocket just by yelling loud enough at a rave. These were the days that bred a stereotype of ecstasy dealers: club-dwelling mysteriosos wearing shirts with a large E on them, treated deferentially as shamans of the scene.

English Shaun one-upped the "E"-shirt methodology. Will says he adopted the Batman logo as his own, outfitting himself and his network of distributors in tee shirts and caps bearing the spread-wing bat design. Not coincidentally, the ecstasy pills he was importing from Europe were embossed with the same logo.

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Susy Buchanan
Brendan Joel Kelley