Evil Empire

Page 9 of 12

A shipment from Europe was running late, and Marcus was stressing. It was Friday afternoon, he recalls, and he was out of pills. He and other members of the Empire were in a mad rush to get their product ready for sale at that weekend's clubs and parties. Finally, Shaun called him over to the house, where Marcus says he found Shaun and two of his associates sitting around the kitchen table, shades drawn, techno blasting, with a mountain of white powder on the table and a brown grocery bag full of empty plastic capsules. The three were scooping powdered ecstasy into the empty capsules and depositing them in an empty 30-gallon aquarium on the kitchen counter, Marcus says.

"So they're moving really fast and . . . meanwhile all this shit is soaking into their pores because their hands are all sweaty because they're nervous, so they're all getting super high. . . . So of course, the actual dose of these pills is all over the place.

"I was looking at all the pills in the fish tank, which were piling up at a pretty impressive rate, and in some of the capsules, there's just a little pinch of powder at the capsule, and it some others, a full half the capsule is full of powdered E, like they're ready to dose an elephant."

That weekend, the scene was rife with reports of people either tripping on one hit or taking three and feeling nothing. "It was insanity," Marcus says. "It went on for weeks, where people would take one capsule and feel nothing an hour later so they'd think the hits were weak, so they'd take two more and those two would be packed to the brim, and 10 hours later they'd be sitting on a corner talking to Santa Claus. And it was all because few people thought to look to compare the amount of powder in these capsules. . . . It was such total chaos that taking an E in Phoenix that weekend was like playing a pharmaceutical slot machine."

Marcus says he stopped buying E from Shaun shortly thereafter. He was disturbed by what he describes as Shaun's increasingly erratic behavior, including Shaun's increasing paranoia and his loud, public boasts about being a wealthy drug lord.

"Shaun was radiating sketch," Marcus says. "He had this favorite line of his, where if the subject of E came up in a cluster of people, whether he knew them or not, Shaun would start bragging — " Marcus affects a light English accent:

"I can get you any kind of fucking E you want, man. Green clovers, blue stars, yellow moons, the whole bowl of Lucky Charms with a little sugar on top."

Marcus drops the accent, then continues: "Now, picture that lovely little self-promo coming from this tall, bald-headed motherfucker with an English accent, waving his arms all over the room, sweating, twitching, all gakked out on speed, saying this loud enough for the whole party to hear. And if you're me, standing over in the corner with a beer, and maybe you just stopped by the party to pick up 100 Es from Shaun's crew, right? Well, seeing him acting that way gets you to thinking, and what it got me to thinking was, I need to forget I ever knew this guy.'"

It turned out to be easier said than done. "I let Shaun know I wouldn't be picking up any more E from him, and he sent that goon of his, that fucking soccer hooligan in a silk shirt" — he identifies the man as Peter Mahoney — "he sent him around to have a little talk with me that went like this: You don't want to sell E anymore, fine. But you don't sell anyone else's E, either. We find out who you are, we'll take your kneecaps off with a handsaw.' Or words to that effect.

"I haven't sold E since."

Throughout this epic rise and fall, law enforcement was not oblivious to English Shaun's activities. Tempe police received an anonymous tip in 1998 about a house in the Valley where raves and after-hours parties were occurring, complete with the illegal party favors they knew Shaun reveled in. But just as the investigation was getting started, "we hit a wall," says a source close to the investigation. "Shaun moved again and he was a ghost."

In January 2001, another source called with concrete information about Shaun's whereabouts and activities that set things in motion for a full-blown investigation. Extensive surveillance began and wire taps were installed on the phone lines of key players in March of 2002. For the next 80 days, law enforcement agents from Phoenix and Tempe sat through thousands of calls, sometimes hundreds in one day.

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Susy Buchanan
Brendan Joel Kelley