Pharma karma catches up: Shkreli sentenced to 7 years

The man who embodied the phrase “pharma bro” and once urged his fans to pull a hair from Hillary Clinton’s head at a book signing has had a visit from pharma karma. The judge in Martin Shkreli’s fraud case, Kiyo Matsumoto, has sentenced the poster man for pharmaceutical company greed to seven years. Estimates are that Shkreli, 34, might get out in a couple of years if his behavior is good.

At his sentencing hearing, Shkreli apparently, and rather uncharacteristically, expressed contrition and shed enough tears that the judge called for the court officer to bring the defendant a box of tissues. Shkreli, in making his plea for leniency, tearfully told the judge that “the one person to blame for me being here today is me.” The judge apparently was unmoved, although the sentence is less than the 15 years the prosecution requested.

Shkreli drew the time after a jury found him guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and 2 counts of securities fraud. The same jury found him not guilty on an additional five counts, raising some hope from his legal team that his sentence would be light. The crimes, related to stock manipulation of shares in Retrophin, one of Shkreli’s companies, and ripping off hedge fund backers, could have carried a sentence of up to 20 years.

In February 2018, Matsumoto found that losses resulting from Shkreli’s crimes tallied up to $10.4 million.

Although he’s probably best known for overseeing a 5,000 percent price hike of a toxoplasmosis drug for HIV-positive patients, Shkreli’s post-pharmaceutical shenanigans caught a much attention as his venality while helming Turing Pharmaceuticals. He dropped $2 million on the sole copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” which the judge has included in his assets. He harassed a journalist on Twitter, getting himself suspended, and seemed to want to fashion himself into the Snark King of Social Media.

His posturing ended up being his downfall.

While awaiting sentencing, Shkreli boasted that he would end up serving hardly any time and what time he did serve would be in the relatively posh environs of a “Club Fed” prison for white collar criminals. But after he exhorted Facebook followers to pluck a hair from Clinton’s head and offered $5000 per sample, the judge who sentenced him revoked Shkreli’s bail and ordered him to be placed in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, a far different experience for the pharma bro.

Although Shkreli is at the center of his own story, some believe that the industry overall is not blame-free. STAT journalist Adam Feuerstein has pointed out that the pharmaceutical industry can’t entirely disown Pharma Bro and his behavior, noting that Shkreli “was doing what lots of other biotech and pharma CEOs did, and still do to various degrees. Legally.”


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