Incredible Story of British Stock Broker Who Became A Drug Kingpin In United States – May 16, 2002 – Scottsdale, Arizona. Thirty four year old Shaun Attwood was working from home, making trades on the stock market online when a 20 member swat team suddenly burst into his apartment. Wielding guns, the police yelled at Attwood to get down on the floor.
He was handcuffed and arrested, charged with money laundering and conspiracy. Ironically, Attwood, persuaded by his girlfriend, had already given up his wild life as Arizona’s biggest ecstasy Kingpin and settled down to domestic bliss. In fact, Attwood thought he had gotten away with it all. . . Shaun Attwood was born to Derick and Barbara Attwood on October 28, 1968.
He grew up in Widnes, a small chemical manufacturing town near Liverpool in northwest England. His loving parents encouraged him to excel at school and he did. As a teen, Attwood became interested in the stock market. With some books and the help of his economics teacher, Attwood began to learn about stocks.
Soon he was reading The Financial Times. By age 16 Attwood had made his first trade, ending up doubling the pocket money given to him by his grandmother. A few times teenage Attwood visited his expat aunts who lived in Arizona. He found America dazzling, from the hot desert sun to the wide open space and swimming pools.
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He considered the US a promised land where anyone could make it. In 1987 after graduating high school and completing A Levels in maths, physics, and economics, Attwood enrolled at the University of Liverpool. At the time, the rave scene was sweeping across the UK. Invited by a classmate for a night out at the Thunder Dome club in Manchester, shy, anxiety ridden Attwood tried ecstasy and speed for the first time.
He loved how the drugs made him feel; with new found confidence fueled by his high, he was able to talk to anyone. Attwood was quickly sucked into the rave scene, spending each weekend partying. Despite his wild social life, he graduated with First Class Honors in a Business Studies degree. He sought a job in London, but was unable to find one. In the summer of 1990, Attwood flew out to Arizona.
He didn’t have authorization to work in the US. However, an aunt worked in the fraud detection business and knew exactly how to help him to make a convincing fake H-1B work visa. Attwood got a job as a commission-only stockbroker. He lived cheaply and worked hard, cold calling 500 numbers a day.
Five years later, Attwood was a top earner, with a salary of over half a million a year with his own secretary and cold callers. But the long hours and stressful job took a toll on Attwood, he had ‘BOBS’ – Burnt Out Broker Syndrome. Attwood began blowing off steam by throwing parties on the weekends.
Wanting to be known as a big spender, he started buying 50 ecstasy pills at a time from a local dealer and giving them away to friends. In the mid-90s, ecstasy in the US was expensive –it could run $30 a hit. Attwood became committed to importing the UK rave scene to Arizona. Eventually, the hectic double life became too much for Attwood. In 1997, he quit his stockbroking day job and invested his substantial savings into technology shares.
As the dot-com bubble grew, Attwood’s portfolio became worth around $2 million. By this time, Attwood was throwing raves in the desert, in apartments and in a warehouse in West Phoenix; wherever he could set up. However, he had trouble with getting a steady, quality supply of drugs. Frustrated with his small time local dealer, Attwood went to Los Angeles to purchase from someone higher up on the chain.
He came back with 1,000 pills. Attwood became a full time ecstasy dealer, buying tablets for around $10 each and selling them for between $25 and $30 a pop. One night, Attwood gained protection from the New Mexican Mafia by accident. Attwood was hosting a house party. The crowd was mostly college age partiers, however one guy stood out.
A tough Mexican with huge tatted up arms. He was there to deal cocaine, crystal meth and weed. Since Attwood only sold ecstasy, he didn’t see the other dealer as competition. The pair started chatting and the dealer introduced himself as G-Dog. Suddenly a policeman arrived. After smelling weed, the policeman pulled out a gun and aimed it at the partiers, shouting for no one to leave.
G-Dog pulled out his gun, pointed it at the cop and said “The only one who isn’t going to leave is you, mother—–” .The crowd scattered. Attwood and his friends hid in another apartment. The police began going door to door in the complex as helicopters shone down spotlights. There was a sudden pounding on the French window at the back of the apartment, and they assumed it was the cops.
But it was G-dog asking for shelter. Attwood agreed and the group spent the rest of the night silently hiding in the apartment in the dark. Sometime later police knocked on the door, but they eventually left after there was no response. The next morning, Attwood drove G-Dog home. In thanks for hiding him, G-Dog pledged that he and his brothers would have Attwood’s back.
At first, Attwood had no idea what this meant. A few months later, G-Dog invited Attwood to come meet his “brothers”. Attwood found himself at a New Mexican Mafia hangout, full of guys in sagging pants, chains,and tattoos. A TV showed CCTV footage of the surrounding area. Next to it was the biggest TV Attwood had ever seen.
On top of the huge TV, the gang displayed their rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Attwood was terrified, but relaxed when the group joked with him and offered him protection. The rave scene in Arizona was growing. Attwood expanded his drug dealing business. He sold mainly ecstasy, but also Special K and LSD.
He began ordering several thousand ecstasy tablets at a time from his LA connection. He hired a team of people to work for him and paid them in cash, cars and apartments. Eventually, Attwood wanted to bypass his dealer in LA and purchase straight from the source. He found out that the ecstasy was being made some 5,000 miles away in Amsterdam, Holland.
With his fraudulent visa, Attwood realized he couldn’t leave the US. So he sent some of his employees to Europe on “fact finding missions”. Happy with the samples they brought back, Attwood began testing different methods of smuggling the drugs. At first, Attwood’s mules only carried around 5,000 pills at a time, but, as they became more confident, they smuggled up to 40,000 pills per mission.
Mainly his employees would go to Germany or France and then take a train to Amsterdam. They would fly back to North America via Mexico and then smuggle the drugs over the US border. The drugs were hidden in luggage, computer towers or vitamin bottles. Attwood imported ecstasy at $3 a pill from Holland and sold it for $10 a pill to his team of sellers.
By 1999, Attwood had amassed a drug dealing empire. Hundreds of people worked for him; he was the biggest Ecstasy dealer in Arizona. Attwood became nicknamed ‘The Bank of England’ because he had so much money. He was also dubbed the Wolf of Widnes, a play on the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’. Attwood’s main enforcers were his childhood pal WildMan and his New Mexican Mafia buddy G-Dog.
To support his operation, Attwood came up with an elaborate money-laundering system, flying old friends over from Widnes to the US to set up bank accounts, which he the nused for illegal activities. At the height of his operation, Attwood had his own rave clothing line, a music store and a personal LSD chemist.
He lived among the very rich in an opulent mountainside mansion with his third wife,a topless dancer and internet porn star. He travelled by limo and acquired several luxury apartments, one of which was just to store his ill-gotten gains. Attwood was taking drugs as well as selling them. He took upwards of 10 ecstasy pills every weekend, as well as GHB, crystal meth, valium, xanax and ketamine.
Attwood’s chaotic life was peppered with extreme moments of paranoia; It wasn’t just the drugs–Salvatore Gravano aka ‘Sammy The Bull’, a former henchman for the Gambino Crime Family who had once testified against John Gotti set up a rival ecstasy distribution ring. Sammy took a hit out on Attwood and once plotted to kidnap him from a nightclub, but Attwood managed to foil his plans.
In late 2000, the dot-com bubble burst, and Attwood’s stocks lost most of their value. Meanwhile, Attwood struggled to maintain order among his crew, quite often playing referee to their squabbles. Most of his squad was doing so much crystal meth they were growing reckless, paranoid and plotting against each other.
A few of his employees were caught smuggling drugs at airports around the world. Eventually Attwood fell in love. His new girlfriend Claudia, who wasn’t into the rave scene convinced him to stop his wild ways. Tired of the havoc, Attwood began to wind down his partying and slow his drug use. Furthermore, Attwood stopped dealing and tried to rid himself of connections to his Ecstasy Empire.
He moved in with Claudia and began to improve his life. But it was too late, for the last five years Attwood had been under federal investigation, complete with undercover cops following him and thousands of wire taps. The DEA, US Customs and three Arizona police forces created a joint task force to bring Atwood down.
Furthermore, the police were able to get ten witnesses to come forward to testify against Attwood. On a quiet spring day in 2002 the police finally arrested Attwood. Naively, Attwood thought he had to be caught red-handed with drugs in order to get arrested. Per Arizonian laws, the police had seven years to convict for any drug offence committed and they do not require physical evidence of the drugs themselves.
All of Attwood’s assets were seized by the State of Arizona. Attwood was remanded to the notoriously tough Maricopa County jail run by controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio. For the next 26 months he lived in a tiny maximum-security cell with two steel bunk sand a seatless toilet. Attwood struggled to survive the brutal conditions at the jail, including extreme heat, cockroaches,rotten food, violent inmates and murderous guards.
Drug smuggling was common with many prisoners addicted to crystal meth or heroin. Stabbings, assault and rape were frequent–gangs had more control over the jail than the gaurdsdid. To deal with stress Attwood began keeping a journal. On bits of paper he wrote entries using a golf pencil sharpened on his cell door.
His aunt visited him frequently and she would smuggle out his writings. She would then type them up and email them to Attwood’s parents. Attwood’s father Derick created a blog called ‘Jon’s Jail Journal’ and would post the entries there. He kept the blog anonymous since Attwood feared reprisal from guards.
Eventually the popular blog began to draw media interest worldwide as the dangerous conditions at Maricopa County jail were exposed. After serving over two years prior to sentencing, Attwood signed a plea bargain, admitting guilt for drug-dealing and money laundering. He was sentenced to nine and a half years, thereby avoiding a maximum 200 year jail sentence if his case had gone to trial.
In July of 2004, Attwood was moved to the Arizona Department of Corrections to serve out his time. His living conditions improved, although the prisoners were just as violent and dangerous as the ones he left behind. Attwood continued to write Jon’s Jail Journal blog entries now, more about the unique, colorful prisoners he met rather than his living conditions.
In prison Attwood attended therapy and read voraciously, starting with classic literature. He studied psychology and philosophy to help him better understand himself and his life choices. Attwood claims he read around 1,000 books in just over six years. Attwood was released in December of 2007, after having served about 6 years of his sentence.
He was deported to the UK, and banned from the US for life. Temporarily Atwood moved back in with his parents, and initially struggled to adjust to life post prison. Cocaine was trendy in the UK and various connections kept calling Attwood asking for his help in establishing a cocaine import business to the UK.
Attwood continued to write and in 2008 won a short story competition with an entry about prison life. As a result of his win, Attwood was assigned an author to mentor him. Several months later, Attwood received a publishing deal for his first book which was about his experience in America’s toughest jail.
Since then, Shaun Attwood has published several books about drugs and the prison system including two more books regarding his wild life of drug dealing and subsequent punishment. He continues to update Jon’s Jail Blog, publishing letters he’s received from prisoners. He also campaigns for humane jail conditions.
In addition to being an author, Attwood is a speaker who’s given TED talks and also has spoken to school children across the UK and Europe about drugs and the consequences of his lifestyle. He hopes to prevent youths from making the same mistakes he did. Attwood feels the speeches he makes and the guidance he offers atones for his former life more than the incarceration sentence he served.
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