Fraud trial underway for ex-pharma exec Martin Shkreli

By Doug G. Ware  |  June 26, 2017 at 5:06 PM
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June 26 (UPI) -- Former pharmaceutical executive and Wall Street investor Martin Shkreli, called by some "the most hated man in America," went on trial Monday for securities fraud.

Jury selection for the 34-year-old's trial started Monday in New York City federal court. Shkreli faces a number of securities fraud charges that stem from activities between 2009 and 2014. Shkreli was arrested by agents of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2015.

Specifically, prosecutors say, Shkreli violated federal law when he managed two hedge funds during that time and swindled investors.

Among other things, Shkreli is accused of using money from one fund to cover claims in the other, which is illegal. The criminal complaint also says he used money from his pharmaceutical startup, Retrophin, to pay unhappy investors who were threatening to sue.

All told, Shkreli faces eight counts of securities fraud and conspiracy. Five of the counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, and the other three carry a maximum term of five years.

Defense attorneys argue that all of the investors were repaid, and thus Shkreli made reparations to the situation.

Shkreli has been the focus of controversy over the last two years. As CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals in 2015, he generated controversy for increasing the price of the drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent -- from $13 to $750 per pill. The drug is used by AIDS patients as part of a medication cocktail to manage their autoimmune disease.

In April, a judge ruled that Shkreli could be tried separately from his former attorney, who has also been charged in the case.

Shkreli, called "pharma bro" by some in news media, has also generated headlines with his activity on social media -- even as defense attorneys have purportedly advised him to remain quiet outside of court.

In early 2016, Shkreli pleaded the Fifth Amendment multiple times during a congressional hearing related to rising drug prices.

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