A nerdy British student became one of the biggest drug traffickers in America and earned himself the nickname the 'Walter White of ecstasy'.
Shaun Attwood's incredible story saw him locked up in one of the deadliest prisons in the USA after the ecstasy kingpin smuggled an estimated £4 million worth of drugs into the state of Arizona.
The 52-year-old, from Widnes, Cheshire, moved to the desert state in the 1990s and after becoming a stockbroker millionaire, he made the transition to distributing drugs after realising how popular they were when he gave them away to his pals for free.
He was shifting so much product that he also earned the nickname 'the Bank of England' while his drugs were christened 'English Shaun's pills'.
His huge financial reach earned him another nickname, 'the Wolf of Widnes', a nod to his hometown and the Wall Street trader Jordan Belfort who was made famous by his memoir and subsequent movie The Wolf of Wall Street.
Shaun's illicit activities eventually found him the subject of a mafia hit from his main competitor and eventually a police raid that saw him thrown in one of America's most dangerous jails, Maricopa County Jail, which he says had the highest death rate in the country at the time.
In his words he "transferred the rave scene" to the Arizona desert.
He said: "I'm feeling like I'm a God. I'm above the law. Then here I am in one of America's deadliest jails. These guys are murdering someone in front of my eyes.
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"I thought I was Mr Cool, the craziest, wildest party person.
"My ego was as big as the Grand Canyon and I felt like I was a character out of the film Pulp Fiction.
"I was the biggest drug dealer in Arizona and was also taking between 10 and 20 Es (ecstasy tablets) myself every weekend, as well as GHB, crystal meth, Valium, Xanax and ketamine. My life was out of control.
“I thought I’d got away with it. I was mistaken.”
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Shaun's life came crashing down on May 16, 2002. By that time it was years since he had entered the drug trade.
He says he quickly "locked down" the Arizona rave scene because he was an early entrant, but eventually he ran into some problems with the competition.
His main competitor in the drug trade was mafia gangster Salvatore 'Sammy the Bull' Gravano, who was reportedly willing to go to extreme lengths to remove his rival from the picture.
Shaun says Sammy the Bull tried to kill him and his associates, which convinced him to retreat to a gated community where he counted Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney among his neighbours.
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He said: "My philosophy was always, 'If this goes to the violence/murder level, it's a whole new ballgame'.
"The police are going to look at us differently and we're going to get sent down for a long time.
"Yeah, I've got the New Mexican Mafia behind me but utilising them will cause more problems in the long run."
It was there that Shaun was living a quiet life having re-entered the stock trade when a SWAT team bust down his front door in May 2002.
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He says: "I never got caught doing a big drug transaction, never even got caught with drugs on me.
"But the statute of limitations in Arizona is seven years, so I had to accept my karma cheerfully – there were 10 witness statements against me."
Shaun had been the subject of a five-year federal investigation and needed multiple agencies and police forces to bring him down.
It included thousands of wire-taps and he was being followed by undercover cops, who likened him to "a ghost" because he kept disappearing whenever they got close.
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He avoided a 200-year prison sentence after a plea bargain but in an instant Shaun had gone from living the high life, surrounded by the mega-rich and celebrities and travelling by limousine to fighting for survival in one of America's toughest prisons.
His shocking experiences behind bars were documented in a blog published under a pseudonym until his release. His aunt smuggled his writings out of the jail to post online.
The jail was controlled by a neo-Nazi Aryan Brotherhood gang, while other horrors included a cockroach infestation and dead rats in the food.
Shaun said: "Me neighbour was a serial killer, my cellmate was a satanist.
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"He's got a Satanic inverted pentagram tattooed on his forehead. He's in for murder and is part of a cult who drink blood and eat human body parts. He was actually very nice to me.
"The prison was completely gang controlled and some prisoners, such as paedophiles, are subject to 'KOS' orders, which means kill on sight.
"Rape is so common in the prison that inmates had to go to a ‘rape class’ to be taught how not to get raped."
After his release from prison in 2007, Shaun was deported back to the UK and has not been allowed back into the United States since.
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After leaving jail he became an author, public speaker and jail activist and also lectures school children on the consequences of drugs and crime.
His memoir on his eye-opening prison experiences, Hard Time, was published in 2011 and he also featured on the hit TV show Banged Up Abroad, with his episode called 'Raving Arizona.
Shaun added: "Drugs were fun at first, but in prison I thought: 'How am I still alive?' I saw just how destructive drugs really are. I felt ashamed."
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