A self-confessed “quiet lad” ended up facing 200 years in America’s worst prison after heading up a multi-million dollar drug empire.
Shaun Attwood, 53, grew up in Widnes, Cheshire, and took a keen interest in the stock market during his teenage years.
He began trading at the tender age of 16 and would visit an auntie over in Arizona, falling in love with the indulgent lifestyle that greeted him across the pond.
Shaun describes himself as a “quiet, shy lad”, but the rave scene of the late 1980s had an impact on him, with the then-youngster dreaming of taking the scene over to America one day.
He flew out to Arizona to live with his auntie and embarked on a successful career in the stock market, which saw him make a million dollars by his late 20s.
“It was amazing, I was going out in the clubs with all these beautiful women, we would actually tell them I was Paul McCartney’s nephew,” Shaun told the Liverpool Echo.
However, the University of Liverpool graduate developed a double life – throwing raves and selling ecstasy to revellers outside work.
Shaun added: “I was working these long days, getting up and 5 and 6 in the morning to trade stocks and eventually the greed just took over.”
Bringing in ecstasy pills from California and eventually the Netherlands, Shaun was dubbed “The Bank of England” after amassing a multi-million pound empire with his right hand man Peter “Wild Man” Mahoney – also from Widnes.
Shaun’s escapades put him in direct competition with mobsters who allegedly even “put a hit” out on Attwood.
Extreme highs would lead to extreme lows however, as on May 16, 2002, Shaun’s party ended when a SWAT team knocked his door down.
“I heard a knock on the door and went to look through the peephole but it was blacked out,” he added. “I went to talk to my girlfriend and thought we’d better let them in.
“I was halfway to the door and just heard a boom and the door flew off the hinges. They were pointing guns shouting ‘Get on the ground now’.”
Shaun was taken to the infamous Maricopa County Jail, where he faced a potential 200 year jail sentence.
This was brought down to nine-and-a half years after a lengthy legal battle which left Mr Attwood feeling suicidal at times.
In the end, a plea was accepted for drug transactions and money laundering- totalling nine-and-a-half years, serving six.
Entering jail was the beginning of a nightmare, with Shaun explaining the fear he felt on his arrival.
He said: “These skinheads come up to me and say, ‘Hey we want a word with you, get in this cell over here’.
“So I went into this cell at the back, they closed the door, the biggest one gets in my face and said, ‘What are your charges? What are your charges?’
“Your charges are on a little printout that they give you, it’s all legal terminology. I was new to this – ‘conspiracy crime syndicate’, I didn’t fully understand what it meant.
I said, I don’t know what my charges mean.
“They got up against the wall about to attack me. They shouted, ‘What do you mean you don’t know what your charges mean? You’re a chomo, you’re a chomo!’”
At this point, Shaun was unaware that “chomo” was prison slang for child molester- inmates convicted of sexual crimes towards children are subject to extreme violence from other prisoners – and they are classed as “KOS” or “kill on sight”.
On his YouTube channel, Shaun describes some of the things he saw inside. In one video he said: “Every day in the jail, people would be coming in and out, all high on crystal meth, it’s crazy.
“Heads getting bashed against toilets, bodies getting thrown around. I saw people’s teeth just flying out. I saw a guy with his leg pointing in the wrong direction.
“People who looked like they were dead, carried out in stretchers with yellow fluid coming out of their brain.
“I saw so much stuff I can’t even remember it all. It was constant.”
Shaun had some protection from his co-defendant and lifelong friend “Wild Man” Mahoney.
He added: “Peter knocked the guy out who asked him what his charges are. No one messed with me once they knew I was with him.”
Since his release from prison in 2007, Shaun has been banned from entering America and has forged a successful career making videos about his time in prison as well as interviewing prominent figures in the criminal underworld – including former mobster Michael Franzese.
Shaun Attwood and Michael Franzese will be hosting “An evening with Michael Franzese- The real Goodfella” at The Shankly Hotel in Liverpool on August 3.