Shaun Attwood

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Shaun Attwood
Prison Talks (cropped).jpg
Born Shaun Attwood
(1968-10-28) October 28, 1968 (age 49)
Widnes, Cheshire, England
  • Author
  • Public Speaker
  • Activist
Known for Ecstasy distribution in the 1990s

Shaun Attwood (born October 28, 1968)[1][2] is an English former stock-market millionaire[3][4] and Ecstasy distributor turned public speaker,[5] activist, and author.

Attwood was born in Widnes, Cheshire and became interested in the stock-market at an early age, trading for the first time at the age of sixteen.[6] After travelling to Arizona regularly to visit his aunts, Attwood moved there following university and became a stock-market millionaire[7], eventually becoming mired in the bubbling rave scene and distributing ecstasy, smuggling up to £4 million.[8] He was arrested in 2001 and was released early in 2007 before being deported back to England. Following his release, Attwood became a public speaker and author, chronicling his experiences in prison.[2]

His story was featured worldwide on National Geographic Channel as an episode of Locked Up Abroad called "Raving Arizona".[9] Random House published his life story as the English Shaun Trilogy.[10] Since publishing his debut book Hard Time (2011), Attwood has authored books on his life and other topics.

Early life[edit]

Shaun Attwood was born in Widnes, Cheshire on October 28, 1968 in a middle-class household[11] that he described as "loving."[12] After watching several films mentioning stock-markets, Attwood educated himself, with the help of his economics teacher, on trading stocks by reading the Financial Times at fourteen.[12] When he was sixteen, during the privatization of many public companies by the Thatcher government, Attwood attempted to invest in British Telecommunications. After inquiring with his father, who was a Labour supporter that disagreed with Thatcher government's actions, Attwood sought money from his grandmother who supported the Conservative party and eventually got £50 which he invested and doubled.[13][14] Attwood regularly visited his aunts in Arizona where he became interested in living in the United States.[12]

Attwood attended University of Liverpool, studying Business Studies and graduating in 1990.[15] While attending university, Attwood started to partaking in the Manchester rave scene which helped him with his anxiety.[6][16]

Career as a stock-broker: 1991-1997[edit]

In 1991, Attwood moved to Arizona, U.S. with the intent of becoming rich working as a stockbroker.[17] Attwood lived as an illegal immigrant with a fake H-1B work visa and failed to get a green card through marriage.[6] Within several years, Attwood was grossing $500,000 in stocks but stress from his job led to usage of ecstasy and using his legally acquired money to throw rave parties.[12]

In 1997, Attwood quit his job as a stock-broker. He had a portfolio worth nearly $2 million after trading in the dot-com bubble, eventually selling all his shares.[14]

Ecstasy distributor: 1997-2002[edit]

Attwood began to organizing larger parties with his money and eventually grown tired of not having enough ecstasy and began to buy ecstasy in Los Angeles. Attwood began buying too many pills for his friends to take and began to distribute them, contributing to the emerging Arizona rave scene.[12] After a while, Attwood began to build what Phoenix New Times called an "empire"[18] and began to buy pills from Holland in an attempt to directly bypass the traffickers in Los Angeles.[19]

Attwood's operation began to be associated with the New Mexican Mafia, which offered protection following a night of partying where Attwood's associates helped a member of the New Mexican Mafia with hiding from the police.[20] His main competitor in the Ecstasy market was Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, a Mafia mass murderer and former underboss of the Gambino crime family. Gravano attempted to kill Attwood and numerous of Attwood's associates, which caused him to stop dealing and give up distributing, retreating to his then-girlfriend's apartment and living off money earned during his time distributing. Attwood estimated he smuggled up to £4 million of drugs into Arizona which wasn't exclusive to Ecstasy and included ecstasy, Xanax and ketamine.[21][8]

Evidence had already been collected against Attwood from his years as an Ecstasy kingpin, and on May 16, 2002, he was arrested at the apartment. Attwood, who had attempted to clean himself of any connections to his previous life as a distributor, was caught due to ten witnesses coming forward.[22]

After serving two years in Maricopa County Jail prior to sentencing, Attwood pleaded guilty for a sentence of nine and a half years, and served the balance of his sentence in the Arizona Department of Corrections.[23] Attwood is banned for life from entering the United States.[24]

While imprisoned, Attwood wrote about his experiences in prison. These accounts were posted online on a blog titled "Jon's Jail Journal" to preserve his anonymity; this began to draw international media attention[25] to the conditions that prevailed under Sheriff Arpaio.[26] While incarcerated Attwood submerged himself in literature, reading over 1 000 books in just under 6 years, including many classics. By studying original texts in psychology and philosophy, he sought to better understand himself and his past behaviour.[17]

Post-incarceration life[edit]

In 2007 Attwood was released and deported to the U.K., where he continues to maintain his blog, now under his own name, where he publishes letters and accounts sent to him by other prisoners. Having credited books for being the lifeblood of his rehabilitation, Attwood spoke out in outrage on The Wright Stuff at the ban on sending books to U.K. prisons introduced by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.

Attwood visiting a school

Attwood now gives talks to schoolchildren and other groups about the negative consequences of drugs and crime, and advocates against Sheriff Arpaio and his methods. Shaun has given several TEDx Talks on his experiences. The University of Basel, Switzerland hosted his 2017 talk on what facing 200 years in prison taught him about happiness.[27][15] He has appeared on BBC, Sky News, CNN and TV in over 40 countries worldwide to talk about issues affecting prisoners' rights. In May 2017, Attwood also appeared on Newcastle-born YouTuber True Geordie's podcast to talk about his life. He was featured again in November 2017 and for a third time in June 2018, becoming a fan favourite. Attwood now has a Youtube channel with around 90 thousand subscribers. He answers questions about what prison was like.


  • Hard Time (2011)
  • Party Time (2013)
  • Prison Time (2014)
  • Life lessons (2015)
  • Hard Time: New Edition (2016)
  • Pablo Escobar: Beyond Narcos (2016)
  • American Made: Who Killed Barry Seal? Pablo Escobar or George HW Bush (2016)
  • Un-Making a Murderer: The Framing of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey (2017)
  • The Cali Cartel: Beyond Narcos (2017)
  • The Mafia Philosopher: Two Tonys (2018)
  • Pablo Escobar's Story (expected 2018)
  • We Are Being Lied To: The War on Drugs (expected July 2019)
  • Party Time: New Edition (2018)

[28] [29]


  1. ^ Jon. "Jon's Jail Journal (by Shaun Attwood)". Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  2. ^ a b Summers, Chris (2010-08-23). "Cockroaches and classrooms". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  3. ^ "UK blogger takes on 'toughest sheriff in US'". 26 October 2004. Retrieved 11 September 2017 – via
  4. ^ "Stock market millionaire turned drug dealer gives talk to Twickenham children". Your Local Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-04. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
  6. ^ a b c True Geordie (2017-05-17), ENGLAND'S WOLF OF WALL STREET | True Geordie Podcast #38, retrieved 2018-10-05
  7. ^ Echo, Liverpool (2008-03-17). "Shaun Attwood on life in an American prison". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  8. ^ a b Hill, Patrick (2018-03-10). "Nerdy British student became US drugs kingpin known as 'The Wolf of Widnes'". mirror. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  9. ^ "Locked Up Abroad: Where Are They Now?: Shaun Attwood". 25 April 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Echo, Liverpool (2008-03-17). "Shaun Attwood on life in an American prison". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Meet the British millionaire stockbroker whose illegal drug empire landed him in one of America's most dangerous jails". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  13. ^ True Geordie (2017-05-17), ENGLAND'S WOLF OF WALL STREET | True Geordie Podcast #38, retrieved 2018-10-05
  14. ^ a b Hill, Patrick (2018-03-10). "The nerdy student who took on America's drug barons - and lived to regret it". men. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  15. ^ a b "Cockroaches and classrooms - drugs tale with a difference". BBC News. 23 August 2010.
  16. ^ "I Used My Stockmarket Millions to Throw Raves and Sell Drugs". Vice. 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  17. ^ a b "Shaun Attwood – Author, Speaker, Educator". Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  18. ^ Kelley, Susy Buchanan, Brendan Joel (2002-07-18). "Evil Empire". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  19. ^ "I Used My Stockmarket Millions to Throw Raves and Sell Drugs". Vice. 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  20. ^ "Murderers, Mafia Hitmen and US Prison | Bristol". Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  21. ^ Kelley, Susy Buchanan, Brendan Joel (2002-07-18). "Evil Empire". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  22. ^ "From Stock Broker Millionaire to Ecstasy Drug Lord: Shaun Attwood Interview". Budapest Pulse. 2018-06-19. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  23. ^ "Prison Time". Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  24. ^ "Shaun Attwood - United Agents". Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  25. ^ "Shaun Attwood – Author, Speaker, Educator". Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  26. ^ James, Erwin (1 September 2010). "Life in America's toughest jail". The Guardian. London.
  27. ^ Attwood, Shaun. "What facing 200 prison years taught me about happiness". YouTube. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  28. ^ Shaun Attwood[1]
  29. ^ Gadfly Press[2] Gadfly Press, UK publisher