BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Fighting to preserve Martin Shkreli’s assets, including multimillion-dollar investments, a painting by Picasso and the only copy of a secret Wu-Tang Clan album, an attorney for the disgraced biotech executive said Thursday that none of these proceeds can be tied to Shkreli’s crimes.
Convicted last year on three counts of securities fraud and conspiracy, 34-year-old Shkreli is best known for machinations that never produced any charges.
He shot to the national spotlight in 2015 with the decision, as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, to jack up the price of life-saving AIDS drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent. In 2017, months before a federal judge revoked his bond for putting a bounty on locks of Hillary Clinton’s hair, Shkreli earned a permanent ban on Twitter for harassment of a female journalist.
The government’s $7.3 million forfeiture request, filed on Nov. 30 in Brooklyn, touches on some of Shkreli’s other controversies, including his ownership of the Wu-Tang Clan album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” and an Enigma code-breaking machine from World War II.
Shkreli was convicted in August of a Ponzi-like scheme to compensate investors in his failing hedge funds — MSMB Healthcare and MSMB Capital — by looting his drug company Retrophin.
He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in February, but defense attorney Benjamin Brafman called it clear Thursday “that Mr. Shkreli never intended to take or divert a dime of his investors’ money for his own use.” In a letter to U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, Brafman said the government failed to tie Shkreli’s crimes to any of the assets it seeks.
Casting his client in heroic terms, Brafman said the truth is that Shkreli made millions of dollars for potential investors.
“This did not happen as a result of luck or divine intervention; it happened because of the tireless work and undying effort of one man: Martin Shkreli,” Brafman’s letter states.
Fighting the government’s demand that Shkreli turn over his interest in Turing Pharmaceuticals, now known as Vyera Pharmaceuticals, Brafman said these assets are not liquid and that forcing a sale would harm current employees, shareholders and patients.
Prosecutors also wanted the $5 million put up as Shkreli’s bond in an E-Trade brokerage account, but Brafman countered that Shkreli needs the money to settle his debts with his lawyers, accountant and the IRS.
As for the substitute assets eyed by the prosecutors, Brafman notes that the 3 Rotor Enigma machine has already been seized by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and sold at auction.
The letter makes no mention the Wu-Tang Clan album or an unspecified Picasso that prosecutors also want forfeited. Brafman, who more recently has been tapped to defend disgraced former film executive Harvey Weinstein, said Matsumoto should delay resolution of the forfeiture request until after Shkreli’s appeal has been resolved.
Shkreli is awaiting sentencing from Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. His co-conspirator, attorney Evan Greebel, was convicted of related charges just after Christmas.