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'Pharma Bro' Shkreli fraud trial goes to jury

Posted at 10:55 AM, Jul 31, 2017

Martin Shkreli's fate is in the hands of a jury.

Deliberations began Monday in his federal fraud trial.

Shkreli drew national scorn two years ago when, as the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he unapologetically raised the price of an AIDS drug from $13.50 per pill to $750. That episode is unrelated to the fraud case.

Federal prosecutors accused Shkreli of mismanaging money at his investment funds Elea Capital, MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare, and as CEO of Retrophin, a drug company he founded in 2011.

They claimed he lied to investors at MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare about how well the funds were doing, and that he used money from Retrophin as a piggy bank to pay off MSMB investors, and to cover personal loans and other debts.

Shkreli pleaded not guilty to eight counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

The jury comprises seven women and five men. While they deliberated, Shkreli smiled and chatted with his father and friends in the courtroom.

On Friday, in closing arguments, federal prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis cited an "avalanche" of evidence in urging a conviction.

"When you lie to people knowingly and intentionally to get their money, it's a crime," she said. "And that is exactly what Martin Shkreli did. He knowingly lied over and over again to his investors."

She asked jurors to set aside the "fairytale" version of Shkreli drawn up by his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, who had portrayed his client as a genius.

"Of course Mr. Shkreli is a smart man. No one is saying he's not smart," Kasulis said. "He knew exactly what he was doing."

During his closing argument, Brafman said that Shkreli is a "good kid" with awkward social skills who acted in good faith and made his investors richer in the end.

"Who lost anything? Nobody," Brafman said.

Brafman argued that Shkreli never intended to defraud anyone. He said that Shkreli slept in a sleeping bag in his office for two years as he tried to make Retrophin a success.

Shkreli did not testify. But he kept up his use of social media throughout the trial, despite efforts by prosecutors and his own lawyer to keep him quiet.