Breaking Composure, Shkreli Gets 7 Years for Securities Fraud

Martin Shkreli arrives at federal court in New York, for the fifth day of deliberations at his securities fraud trial on Aug. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Choking up Friday as he apologized for the Ponzi-like scheme that landed him behind bars, Martin Shkreli received a seven-year prison sentence for three counts of securities fraud and conspiracy.

“The only person to blame for me being here today is me,” said Shkreli at a three-hour hearing in Brooklyn.

“There is no conspiracy to take down Martin Shkreli,” he added. “I took down Martin Shkreli.”

The attitude marked a strong departure from Shkreli’s previous aplomb about various activities that have for years generated widespread revile.

Before his arrest, Shkreli rose to the national spotlight for hiking the price of the lifesaving AIDS drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a tablet. He appeared to show no remorse for the move, smirking through a congressional hearing and calling Congress members “imbeciles” afterward.

After his conviction and remand to Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, meanwhile, Shkreli called the government’s win was “as close to a loss as a loss gets.”

U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto recounted Shkreli’s various offenses both criminal and otherwise in handing down the sentence Friday.

“I find the nature of the offenses to be extremely serious,” Matsumoto said.

Matsumoto’s sentence of 84 months is a downward departure from guidelines recommendations of 27 to 34 years.

A pale Shkreli, who turns 35 on March 17, did not offer much of a reaction to the sentence, barely moving from a hunched-over position except to occasionally push up his glasses. Matsumoto had her clerk hand him a box of tissues, which he used to wipe his nose.

Before Matsumoto handed down the sentence, Shkreli’s attorney Benjamin Brafman spent about an hour expounding on his client’s positive qualities and complicated nature.

“I’ve got my begging voice on,” he told the judge. “I’m old enough to be [Shkreli’s] father. … There are times I want to hug him and hold him and comfort him, and there are times I want to punch him in the face.”

Brafman had asked the court for an 18-month sentence, using character references to paint his client as a complex and altruistic, if impulsive and social media-obsessed savant.

He spoke in detail at Friday’s hearing about Shkreli’s lower-middle-class childhood as a first-generation American, as well as his client’s mental health and unusual personality.

“He lacks certain people skills,” Brafman said.

Prosecutors painted a more sinister view of Shkreli’s activities, however, and requested a sentence of no less than 15 years.

Brafman balked at the 15-year request at Friday’s hearing, calling such a term “draconian” and “a made-up number.”

“At the end of the day,” Brafman said, “the government is suggesting that you take this man who’s flawed and broken, and you throw him away.”

These flaws were recounted at length in the government’s sentencing memo, which quoted how Shkreli replied from jail to an acquaintance who suggested he apologize “for being a dick.”

“Being a dick to who?” Shkreli responded in an email, as quoted in the memo. “I don’t think the giraffe apologizes for his long neck. it’s what makes me, me.”

Brafman’s sentencing memo offers an explanation for this brash personality, noting that Shkreli’s “extraordinary intellect” and different social abilities made it hard for him to relate to or communicate with others during his youth.

Shkreli’s parents are also Albanian immigrants, which Brafman said further complicated his client’s early life.

The government’s memo, by contrast, mentions Shkreli’s online harassment of Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca in 2018 after she publicly declined to accompany him to President Trump’s inauguration.

His treatment of Duca got him banned from Twitter, and the government also mentioned Shkreli’s threats against Hillary Clinton. In the crunch before last year’s presidential election, Judge Matsumoto revoked Shkreli’s bond because he urged his more than 70,000 Facebook followers to collect locks of Hillary Clinton’s hair for a $5,000 per-strand bounty.

Shkreli is eligible for time served for this six-month detention.

Matsumoto ruled on Feb. 26 that the loss amount from Shkreli’s crimes was $10.4 million and ordered $7.36 million in forfeitures on Monday.

Among these forfeited assets are a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album, a Lil Wayne album and a Picasso painting.

Shkreli’s attorney has said his client needs therapy.

“We all hope [Shkreli] will move beyond the realm of social-media distraction and devote his full effort to being a man of significance and moral strength,” Brafman’s memo states.

Though Brafman has denied that Shkreli’s scheme resulted in any personal benefits, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis noted Friday that the  criminal activity enabled Shkreli to appear as a successful hedge fund manager.

“What motivates Martin Shkreli is his own image,” she said. “He wants everyone to believe he is a genius, a whiz kid, a self-taught biotech wonder, the richest man in New York City. … That image is his mansion. It’s his Maserati.”

Just after Christmas, Retrophin’s outside counsel, Evan Greebel, was also found guilty of two counts of conspiracy. Greebel awaits sentencing amid allegations of juror misconduct.

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