‘Pharma Bro’ jury begins deliberations in federal fraud trial

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Martin Shkreli (center), the former biotech CEO best known for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug and for trolling his critics on social media, at his federal securities fraud trial last year. | AP Photo

NEW YORK — A jury began deliberations Monday at the federal securities fraud trial of Martin Shkreli, the former biotech CEO best known for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug and for trolling his critics on social media.

The deliberations follow about a month of testimony in federal court in Brooklyn, most it from investors in two failed hedge funds run by the defendant. The witnesses told jurors that the 34-year-old Shkreli concealed the fact that he lost millions of dollars and made them the victim of a scheme to pay them back with worthless stock in a startup drug company.

The trial “has exposed Martin Shkreli for who he really is — a con man who stole millions,” a federal prosecutor, Jacquelyn Kasulis, said in closing arguments last week.

The defense countered by arguing that the investors weren’t victims because they ended up recouping their money when the drug company went public. Some even made large profits when the stock price took off.

“Who lost anything? Nobody,” defense attorney Ben Brafman said in his closing argument. Some investors had to admit on the witness stand that partnering with Shkreli was “the greatest investment I’ve ever made,” he added.

Before his arrest in 2015 in the securities fraud case, Shkreli became notorious for buying the rights to a drug called Daraprim and promptly raising the price by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750 per pill. The defendant, who didn’t testify, also came into the trial with a reputation for trolling his critics on social media to a degree that got him kicked off Twitter and earned him the moniker “Pharma Bro.”

Rather than lay low like his lawyers wanted, Shkreli got into the act, using Facebook to bash prosecutors and news organizations covering his case. In one recent post, he wrote, “My case is a silly witch hunt perpetrated by self-serving prosecutors. … Drain the swamp. Drain the sewer that is the (Department of Justice).”

Shkreli faces eight counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted of the most serious counts, he faces up to 20 years in prison but would likely receive far less time under sentencing guidelines.

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