A boyish drug company entrepreneur, who rocketed to infamy by jacking up the price
of a life-saving pill from $13.50 to $750, was arrested by federal agents at his Manhattan home early Thursday morning on securities fraud related to a firm he founded.
Martin Shkreli, 32, ignited a firestorm over drug prices in September and became a symbol of defiant greed. The federal case against him has nothing to do with pharmaceutical costs, however. Prosecutors in Brooklyn charged him with illegally taking stock from Retrophin Inc., a biotechnology firm he started in 2011, and using it to pay off debts from unrelated business dealings. He was later ousted from the company, where he’d been chief executive officer, and sued by its board.
In the case that closely tracks that suit, federal prosecutors accused Shkreli of engaging in a complicated shell game after his defunct hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management, lost millions. He is alleged to have made secret payoffs and set up sham consulting arrangements. A New York lawyer, Evan Greebel, was also arrested early Thursday. He's accused of conspiring with Shkreli in part of the scheme.
Retrophin replaced him as CEO “because of serious concerns about his conduct,” the company said in a statement. The company, which hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, has “fully cooperated with the government investigations into Mr. Shkreli.”
Shkreli’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Spokeswomen for Kaye Scholer LLP, where Greebel works, and Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers declined to comment. Capers will discuss the case at a press conference Thursday in Brooklyn.
Shkreli’s extraordinary history—and current hold on the public imagination—makes the case more noteworthy than most involving securities fraud. The son of immigrants from Albania and Croatia who worked as janitors and raised him deep in working-class Brooklyn, Shkreli both epitomizes the American dream and sullies it. As a youth, he showed exceptional promise and independence and, after dropping out of an elite Manhattan high school, began his conquest of Wall Street before he was 20.
AIDS activists pour cat litter on an image of Shkreli in a makeshift cat litter pan during a protest highlighting pharmaceutical drug pricing, in front of the building that houses Turing's offices, in New York.
His name entered public consciousness after he raised the price more than 55-fold for Daraprim. It is the preferred treatment for a parasitic condition known as toxoplasmosis, which can be deadly for unborn babies and patients with compromised immune systems including those with HIV or cancer. His company, Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, bought the drug, moved it to a closed distribution system and instantly drove the price into the stratosphere.
Christie Smythe and Keri Geiger, Bloomberg News