'Most hated man' in US jailed 7 years for defrauding investors

Martin Shkreli, the former Turing Pharmaceuticals executive infamous for suddenly raising the price of an HIV drug, as he arrives last year for jury selection in his federal securities fraud trial.
Martin Shkreli, the former Turing Pharmaceuticals executive infamous for suddenly raising the price of an HIV drug, as he arrives last year for jury selection in his federal securities fraud trial.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Martin Shkreli, once dubbed the most hated man in America for ratcheting up the price of an HIV drug, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for defrauding investors.

The disgraced former pharmaceutical executive and hedge fund manager was jailed on Friday after being convicted in August of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud.

Shkreli, who once led Turing Pharmaceuticals, became known as "Pharma Bro" and is infamous for suddenly raising the price of Daraprim in 2015 by 5,000 per cent, from US$13.50 a pill to US$750.

He smirked through a congressional hearing scrutinising his actions and has a reputation for an extravagant, self-publicising lifestyle.

Although the drug controversy was unconnected with his trial at a New York federal court, the 34-year-old's notoriety made it difficult to find an impartial jury.

Arrested in December 2015, his bail was revoked in September after he offered a reward for anyone who would grab a strand of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's hair. Shkreli insisted it was a joke.

His lawyer Ben Brafman, called him a mildly autistic, self-taught genius and asked US District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto to limit the sentence to no more than 18 months.

But even Mr Brafman reportedly acknowledged "there are times when I want to punch him in the face" because his client's behaviour complicated the defence.

Prosecutors were seeking 15 years' prison, arguing that Shkreli showed no remorse and pointing to his provocative and bizarre statements posted on social media.

"He wants everyone to believe he is a genius, a whizz kid, a self-taught biotech wonder," said prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis. "He can't be just an average person who fails."

In a letter sent last week to the judge, Shkreli pleaded for leniency and for the first time admitted he had erred.

"I made serious mistakes but I still believe that I am a good person with much potential. I was a fool," he said, expressing a wish to work "for the betterment of humanity". With a choking voice, he reiterated in court his remorse at the "shameful actions" that led to his downfall.

The jury cleared him of more than half the charges for allegedly stealing US$11 million in stock from his first pharmaceutical company to pay off investors who lost money in his hedge funds.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 11, 2018, with the headline ''Most hated man' in US jailed 7 years for defrauding investors'. Print Edition | Subscribe