Jurors set to hear closing arguments as prosecutors paint Martin Shkreli as compulsive liar
As prosecutors get ready to wrap up at the trial for “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, they have painted the picture of a compulsive liar who relied on a Ponzi-like scheme to make up for his bad investments.
Shkreli, 34, became infamous prior to the start of his trial for grossly marking up the price of HIV/AIDS medication that his pharmaceutical company purchased, and for purchasing the rights to, but not releasing, the Wu-Tang Clan album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” in 2015.
Shkreli isn’t on trial for upping drug prices or hoarding rap music, instead the government has charged him with securities fraud related to a pair of hedge funds he ran.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alixandra Smith said in closing arguments at his securities fraud trial in front of federal court Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto on Thursday that Shkreli “lied to investors to get their money into the funds and then lied to them so they wouldn’t take it out.”
The prosecutor recounted testimony by investors who told jurors that Shkreli claimed to be managing up to $40 million in one of his firms at a time when its brokerage account held only a few hundred dollars. When one investor asked for his money back, Shkreli stalled for months until he used a Ponzi-like scheme to secretly raid a second fund to return a portion of the funds, she said.
“The defendant was lying not only about the ability to get redemption, but also about where that money was coming from,” she said.
As Shkreli was “blowing up” his hedge funds with bad stock picks, he continued to recruit new investors by portraying himself as a Wall Street whiz who graduated from Columbia University, Smith said. He really attended a lesser-known public university, Baruch College.
Claims “that he was some sort of genius in the investing industry were completely untrue,” she said.
The defense, which was to give its closing argument later in the day, has sought to portray the impish Shkreli as a misunderstood eccentric who used unorthodox methods to ultimately repay all his alleged victims. In some cases, he made them even richer by giving them stock in a new drug company that became a success, his lawyers say.
Shkreli didn’t testify, but throughout the trial he has used Facebook to bash prosecutors and news organizations covering his case, despite his lawyer’s efforts to shut him up. In one recent post, he wrote, “This was a bogus case from day one.”
The trial is in its fifth week. Jury deliberations could begin on Friday.
With reporting from the Associated Press.
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