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How Did Hillary Clinton Lead To Notorious 'Pharmabro' Martin Shkreli's Downfall?

After buying the drug Daraprim and raising the price by 5,000 percent, Martin Shkreli attracted nationwide fury  — and he seemingly loved the attention.

By Becca van Sambeck
Martin Shkreli

"New York City. 8 million stories. [Dramatic pause.] Mine's the best."

So says Martin Shkreli in self-recorded video footage obtained by CNBC's "American Greed: Biggest Cons," airing on August 10, 10/9c. Shkreli became the object of American disdain after the young CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the drug Daraprim and raised the price by 5,000 percent, rendering it unaffordable for many whose lives depended on the antiparasite drug.

"Martini Shkreli bought a drug that was decades old, that was used for very rare but serious infections that affect really vulnerable people — HIV patients, cancer patients, pregnant women, people with suppressed immune systems, and he raised the price by 5,000 percent overnight," Lisa L. Gill, an investigative reporter, explained to "American Greed."

Shkreli would end up making more headlines when he was sentenced to prison for seven years in March 2018 for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, charges unrelated to his Daraprim controversy. Instead he had been accused of hoodwinking investors in his various companies he ran before founding Turing. Before his sentencing, Shkreli maintained the sneering, defiant troll act he was well-known for, even after he was found guilty. But at his sentencing, he was in tears.

What happened to cause Shkreli's facade to crumble, and how was it related to Hillary Clinton?

Despite being accused of fraud and facing eight federal charges, Shkreli continued his online antics that furthered his distasteful reputation: He bought a one-of-a kind album, the Wu-Tang Clan's "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin" for $2 million, and when band member Ghostface Killah publicly denounced Shkreli, he responded with online videos mocking the band. He harassed a female journalist who turned down a date with him, Photoshopping himself into photos of her. He posted to social media throughout his trial, labeling the prosecutors the "junior varsity" and slamming the government.

When "American Greed" producers contacted him for an interview in 2017, he responded, "lol suck my d---."

He would be found guilty of three of the eight charges against him, which he spun as a total victory.

"This was a witch hunt of massive proportions. Maybe they found one or two broomsticks, but at the end of the day we’ve been acquitted of the most important charges in the case," he told media after the verdict, in video obtained by "American Greed."

Shkreli continued to boast about his conviction, saying afterward that he expected to serve no jail time — at most, six months.

However, while out on bail, one of Shkreli's posts went way too far.

After Shkreli was mentioned by Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign as a symbol of the corruptness in the American healthcare system, Shkreli shot back online. He promised $5,000 to anyone who could grab a piece of Clinton's hair for him.

This was naturally alarming for Secret Service agents, as Shkreli was by now a public figure with thousands of followers reading his social media posts. They labeled his post a threat and took it to the judge, asking for his bail to be revoked.

Shkreli insisted it was a joke, but U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto disagreed, labeling the post "a solicitation of assault [...] not protected by the First Amendment," NPR reported at the time. The judge focused on his history of making women uncomfortable, with the female reporter he harassed online and now this threat to Clinton, "American Greed" noted.

The judge agreed to revoke his bail and sent him to Brooklyn's Central Detention Center to await his sentencing in March 2018.

Shkreli arrived to his sentencing from jail with a noticeably different demeanor. 

"This is a come-to-Jesus moment, standing before a federal judge who holds your fate in their hands. His bravado was gone, he broke down,” Dan Mangan, a CNBC reporter, told "American Greed."

But despite his tearful pleas, it was too late, as Shkreli's actions during bail made clear. He was sentenced to seven years in prison at Fort Dix Correctional Prison in New Jersey. He also had to forfeit more than $7 million in assets, including the treasured Wu-Tang Clan album.

Of course, prison, especially at Fort Dix, a low-security prison home to many white-collar criminals, didn't seem to deter him. In fact, it was soon revealed he had a contraband cell phone in prison and he was accused of using it to run business and continue to act as a sort of shadow CEO for Turing Pharmaceuticals, now renamed Vyera.

"This company is Martin’s baby. The people Martin surrounds himself with tend to be very loyal too him as a rule. Their, you know, professional and financial interests are closely tied to that company and if they don’t do what he says they’re likely to get the boot and not get any of the payoff," Mangan told "American Greed."

Shkreli was punished with solitary confinement and moved to a facility in Allenwood, Pennsylvania with tighter security.

In April 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, he appealed for early release, claiming he can help save the world by developing a treatment for the disease. His request was denied, with the judge labeling his excuse "delusional." In September 2023, Shkreli will be released from prison.

In March 2020, the first generic version of Daraprim was approved by the FDA. Shrkeli's company stands to lose millions from this lower-priced drug hitting the market.

To hear an interview with a juror on the Shkreli trial, see more of Shkreli's online taunts, and learn more about Shkreli's fraud scheme, tune in to "American Greed: Biggest Cons" on CNBC on 10/9c.

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