Imprisoned pharmaceutical investor Martin Shkreli put in solitary confinement for illicit cell use

Pharmaceutical investor Martin Shkreli, already in prison for securities fraud, was transferred to solitary confinement in March for using a contraband cellphone to run his drug company Phoenixus AG from jail. Shkreli, known as “Pharma Bro”, is in federal prison in Fort Dix, New Jersey where rules forbid conducting business or accessing cellphones. Shkreli’s original 2017 securities fraud conviction stemmed from defrauding investors in several hedge funds he controlled. The thirty-six-year-old Shkreli has not only been posting on social media and running his drug company Phoenixus AG from prison, he even fired the Phoenixus AG CEO while behind bars.

Shkreli originally attracted international publicity and condemnation in 2015 by buying a drug company and then raising the price of one of the company’s drugs by 5000%. The drug was pyrimethamine and is prescribed for infections in AIDS, malaria and cancer patients. Shkreli increased the price of the drug from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet ($75,000 per course of treatment). He responded to criticism by arguing that raising drug prices is necessary to finance the development of new drugs. The 5000% drug price hike earned Pharma Bro international hatred but did not apparently violate any US laws or directly lead to legal action. Being a complete jerk is not yet illegal in the US.

The events described above were not Shkreli’s first run-ins with accepted standards of decency and behavior. Shkreli (affectionately called “Asshole” by his fellow inmates) was also jailed in 2017 because of one of his Facebook posts about Hilary Clinton. In this post, he offered his Facebook followers $5000 to grab a strand of Ms. Clinton’s hair during her book tour. The post led the Secret Service to seek an interview with Pharma Bro and to beef up security for Ms.Clinton. In his post, Shkreli said that he wanted to compare the DNA sequence in a sample from Hilary Clinton he already owned to the sought-after hair sample:

“So on (Hillary Clinton’s) book tour, try to grab a hair from her. I must confirm the sequences I have. Will pay $5,000 per hair obtained from Hillary Clinton. Payment after the sequence matches. Good luck, patrollers.”

At the time Shkreli was awaiting sentencing for his securities fraud conviction. His bail was revoked and he was jailed after the judge said that Shkreli’s post was a “solicitation to assault in exchange for money”. His attorney Benjamin Brafman argued that the post was “a momentary lapse in judgment” and that “stupid doesn’t make you violent”. Brafman is a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in defending celebrities and members of organized crime families.


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