‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli vows to be ‘more honest’ in plea for lower prison sentence for losing US$10.4m of investors’ money

Shkreli hopes to get 12-18 months in jail and community service – well under the 30 years he could get for losing more than US$10.4 million of investors’ money

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 5:08am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 5:40am

Martin Shkreli has promised to be “more careful, open and honest” and said “I was a fool. I should have known better,” in a plea to have his upcoming sentence for securities fraud reduced.

“I assure you that any mercy shown at sentencing will be met with a strict adherence to this oath and I hope to make your honour proud of me in the years ahead,” Shkreli said in a letter penned from the Brooklyn lock-up where he’s been since September.

It’s a turnaround for Shkreli, who was dubbed the most-hated-man in America after raising the price of a life-saving drug by 5,000 per cent, and who was convicted on Monday of losing more than US$10.4 million of his investors’ money.

Shkreli responsible for US$10.5m in securities fraud losses

He previously blasted members of a congressional panel who had quizzed him about the price hike, calling them “imbeciles” on Twitter.

“I am now, however a more self confident and secure person,” Shkreli wrote in a letter to the judge. “The demons that haunted me – the root cause of my insecurity in my life – no longer all exist. I have learned a very painful lesson.”

US District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in Brooklyn, New York, concluded on February 26 that Shkreli caused investors to lose more than US$10.4 million, rejecting his claim that he made them money. 

His lawyers said that decision means Shkreli could face a sentence of more than 30 years in prison, arguing it’s a term he doesn’t deserve. 

Noting sentencing guidelines are only advisory, defence lawyer Ben Brafman asked that Shkreli get 12 to 18 months and community service.

He is a “caring intellectual” who’s helped find cures for diseases that afflict kids, Brafman said of Shkreli. But he is plagued by “personal demons hell bent on self-destruction,” the lawyer added.

In Shkreli’s first direct communication with the judge, he called his five-week trial a “frightening wake-up call” and blamed his actions on insecurity, saying, “I wanted to be more than I was. I exaggerated.”

He acknowledged that he had “dodged” questions posed by his investors or gave answers “that were only correct if put in a certain assumed context.” 

He described himself as a “irreverent and freewheeling individual” whose comments and actions didn’t reflect his true nature.

“I regret where my temper can take me when I get angry or feel betrayed,” he said.

Matsumoto ordered Shkreli jailed in September after he issued a bounty on social media for a sample of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s hair.

Prosecutors have argued Shkreli should forfeit US$7.4 million that he wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t committed the crimes. They are expected to make their sentencing recommendation on March 5.

Prison consultant Joel Sickler said in court papers that while Shkreli would ordinarily be eligible to serve his time in a minimum-security federal camp that resembles “an austere college campus,” officials will instead place him in a higher-security facility because of his threat against Clinton.

That will mean Shkreli will be housed in a crowded prison filled with felons who’ve been convicted of violent crimes ranging from racketeers, drug cartel leaders and sex offenders, all posing a threat to what Sickler called Shkreli’s “fragile mental state.”

The threat to a government official should be waived, and Shkreli should be allowed to serve his time in a low-security, or camp, setting, Sickler said.