Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive who has been publicly excoriated for sharply increasing the price of a lifesaving HIV drug and derisively referred to as the "Pharma Bro," was sentenced on Friday to seven years in prison for defrauding investors in two failed hedge funds and a drug company he once ran.
It's less than half of the 15 years prosecutors were seeking, but it far exceeds the minimum 18-month sentence Shkreli's attorneys were hoping to secure for their client, whose 35th birthday is later this month.
Shkreli was found guilty on two counts of securities fraud for duping hedge fund investors in MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare about the financial performance of the two companies that he operated. And he was convicted of conspiracy to commit securities fraud for manipulating stock shares of Retrophin, a pharmaceutical company he created.
U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto also ruled Monday that Shkreli must forfeit the money he made from his fraud — nearly $7.4 million — and pay a $75,000 fine. And, as NPR's Colin Dwyer reported, if Shkreli can't come up with the funds to pay back the government, he'll have to hand over a few prized possessions, including a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album and a Picasso painting.
Shkreli, who has often appeared defiant both in the courtroom and in interviews, made a sob-filled plea for leniency during the 2 1/2-hour proceedings leading up to Matsumoto's decision, according to CNBC.
" 'The one person to blame for me being here today is me,' a choked-up Shkreli told a judge before she imposed the prison term. 'Not the government. There is no conspiracy to take down Martin Shkreli.'
" 'I took down Martin Shkreli with my disgraceful and shameful actions.'
" 'This is my fault. I am no victim here,' Shkreli said, before breaking down into tears as he promised not to let his lawyer Benjamin Brafman down in his efforts to contribute to society.
" 'Do not feel bad for me,' Shkreli told a packed courtroom that included many of his supporters and family members.
"And he had a message for the investors he duped: 'I am terribly sorry I lost your trust ... You deserve far better.' "
Shkreli emerged as a public villain in 2015 after raising the price of Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750 per pill as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. A later offer to pay $5,000 for a strand of Hillary Clinton's hair — follicle included — after his conviction when he was out on bail, did nothing to rehabilitate his image. In fact, Matsumoto sent him back to jail for the stunt that Shkreli later claimed was a joke.
In a letter to the judge dated Feb. 26, Shkreli wrote:
"I feel I should try to explain my personality.
"I am an irreverant and free-wheeling individual, who has never been shy about speaking my mind. I am an individual who prizes equal rights, scholastic achievement and individuality. Please understand that when I get into a public war of words with someone, my comments do not always reflect my true nature. Sadly, when I get dragged into a mud fight, I often dive in, head first."
Shkreli has been held in a federal prison in Brooklyn, N.Y., for six months. He said being behind bars is "both the most frightening experience of my life but also an opportunity for me to see a side of the world seldom seen or discussed."
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