‘Pharma Bro’ jailed: Martin Shkreli gets 7 years in prison for defrauding investors

Shkreli apologised and through sobs said he had learned from his mistakes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 March, 2018, 4:04am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 March, 2018, 6:51pm

Martin Shkreli, the former drug company executive who made headlines by jacking up the price of a lifesaving drug before he was found guilty of defrauding investors, was sentenced to 7 years and a US$75,000 fine on Friday.

The sentence from US District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, was shorter than the 15 years asked for by prosecutors but much longer than the 12 to 18 months Shkreli’s lawyers had sought.

Shkreli’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told reporters after the hearing that he was “disappointed” by the sentence.

“I thought the sentence should have been less than seven years,” he said. “But Martin’s fine and will be fine and obviously it could have been a lot worse.” 

The judge insisted that the punishment was not about Shkreli’s online antics or raising the cost of the drug.

“This case is not about Mr Shkreli’s self-cultivated public persona ... nor his controversial statements about politics or culture,” the judge said, calling his crimes serious.

‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli ordered to forfeit US$7.3 million

The $75,000 fine comes on top of $7.36 million in forfeiture Shkreli had already been ordered to pay following his conviction. The judge also allowed prosecutors to go after Shkreli’s Picasso painting and his hip-hop crown jewels — a copy of Lil’ Wayne’s “Tha Carter V” and a single-edition cut of the Wu Tang Clan’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” which he boasted had paid US$2 million.

The judge said the property would not be seized until Shkreli had a chance to appeal.

Shkreli shed his cocky persona and sobbed as he admitted he had learned from his mistakes and apologised to investors.

“I want the people who came here today to support me to understand one thing, the only person to blame for me being here today is me,” he said. “I took down Martin Shkreli.”

He said that he hopes to make amends.

“I am terribly sorry I lost your trust,” he said. “You deserve far better.”

Shkreli vows to be ‘more honest’ as he begs for clemency

The self-promoting pharmaceutical executive, notorious for trolling critics online, was convicted in a securities fraud case last August unconnected to the price increase dispute.

“This was a witch hunt of epic proportions,” Shkreli said at the time, even if “one or two broomsticks” were unearthed.

Prosecutors argued that the 34-year-old was a master manipulator who conned wealthy investors. 

Shkreli’s lawyers said he was a misunderstood eccentric who used unconventional means to make those same investors even wealthier.  

Lawyer Benjamin Brafman told the judge before the sentencing that his client, 34, suffered from depression and an anxiety disorder and was a “somewhat broken” person, whom the government wanted to “throw away.”

He needs to be mythical, He needs to be larger than life
Prosecutor Jacqueline Kasulis

Lawyer Benjamin Brafman told Matsumoto on Friday that he sometimes wants to hug Shkreli and sometimes wants to punch him in the face, but said his outspokenness shouldn’t be held against him.

Prosecutor Jacqueline Kasulis slammed Shkreli as an unrepentant fraudster who cares only about himself and his supersized ego.

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“What motivates Martin Shkreli is his own image,” Kasulis said. “He can’t just be an average person who fails, like the rest of us. … He needs to be mythical, He needs to be larger than life.”

In his typical grating style, Shkreli himself once boasted that he would likely spend mere months at a cushy “Club Fed” prison. 

Shkreli stoked his notoriety by stonewalling federal lawmakers at a hearing and later tweeting they were “imbeciles.”

The Brooklyn-born entrepreneur became known as the “Pharma Bro” in September 2015 after founding Turing Pharmaceuticals, buying the anti-parasitic drug Daraprim and raising its price by 5,000 per cent to US$750 per pill.

Although his trial was unrealted to Daraprim, his infamous title as “most hated man in America” initially made it difficult to find an impartial jury for the trial.

Shkreli has been in jail since September, when Matsumoto revoked his bail after he offered his social media followers US$5,000 for a hair from former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.