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Martin Shkreli seeks $3 million reduction in bail as criminal trial looms, says most of his assets 'illiquid'

  • Shkreli is accused of defrauding his former company Retrophin out of millions of dollars to repay investors in two hedge funds, who he also is accused of ripping off.
  • His bail is secured by an E-Trade account.
  • Jury selection in Shkreli's case is due to start June 26 in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.
Martin Shkreli
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Martin Shkreli

Is the pharma bro on his way to being cash broke?

Martin Shkreli's lawyers, saying his assets are largely "illiquid," are asking a judge to slash his $5 million bail to just $2 million as the former pharmaceutical executive prepares to go on trial on federal criminal securities fraud charges in less than two weeks.

Shkreli's criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman said that cutting his bail amount would allow $3 million to be released from an E-Trade account containing $5 million in cash that currently is securing his freedom.

In turn, that $3 million would be transferred to an account maintained by Shkreli's civil lawyers at the firm Fox Rothschild, and then be used to pay Shkreli's tax and legal expenses, according to a letter Brafman sent this week to Judge Kiyo Matsumoto.

The letter argues the bail reduction is warranted because Shkreli "is not a risk of flight," and because the current bail amount "is far in excess of what is required."

Brafman wrote that Shkreli's bail package was consented to by his former criminal defense lawyers when he was arrested in December 2015, "at a time when Mr. Shkreli had access to many millions of dollars in cash and other liquid assets."

"Today, the majority of Mr. Shkreli's assets are illiquid," said the letter to Matsumoto, which asks that she consider the bail request during oral arguments at a hearing in Brooklyn, New York, federal court next Monday.

"Although Mr. Shkreli is still worth a lot of money due to his ownership interest in Turing, that interest cannot be currently sold, nor can it be pledged."

Federal prosecutors have refused to agree to Brafman's request, according to the letter.

The claim that Shkreli is short on available cash came days after a report that he funded a $40,000 scholarship to a recent Princeton University graduate who had solved a math proof that Shkreli posed during a guest lecture at the college in April.

Turing was founded by Shkreli in 2015. He first gained public notoriety that same year after Turing acquired the rights to an anti-parasite drug, Daraprim, and then hiked the price of the medication used to treat pregnant women, infants and people with HIV from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

Brafman's letter says Shkreli's interest in Turing is "now valued at tens of millions of dollars," and that he would forfeit that interest if he flees prosecution.

And the letter notes that the $2 million bail proposed is still twice the amount of Shkreli's co-defendant, Evan Greebel, and much more than in other cases involving alleged white collar crimes with a defendant who has no prior criminal record.

"We believe that $2,000,000 is more than sufficient to secure Mr. Shkreli's continued appearance in this case," Brafman wrote.

Brafman's letter said that an escrow account maintained by Shkreli's civil counsel, Fox Rothschild, would be used to hold the $3 million in cash if the bail reduction is granted.

"At this time, Mr. Shkreli must pay his civil attorneys, Fox Rothschild ... for legal work related to this case and to other legal matters," Brafman wrote. "He also owes [REDACTED] to Marks Paneth, forensic accountants who were retained to assist Mr. Shkreli in responsibly addressing certain claims against him by the IRS and [New York state] tax authorities."

The letter outlines proposed payments out of the $3 million that will be permitted by the tax authorities, but those payments are blacked out in the letter, which was filed in court.

Shkreli's E-trade account used to secure his bail originally was valued at $45 million when it first was posted as collateral for his release.

But the value dropped by about $41 million weeks later, as a result of its large holdings of KaloBios stock. Shortly before his arrest, an investor group led by Shkreli had purchased a controlling interest in KaloBios, which named him CEO. But the company's stock tanked on the heels of his arrest.

Shkreli is charged with defrauding Retrophin, the drug company he founded and ran before Turing, out of millions of dollars to repay investors in two hedge funds that he ran whom he also is accused of ripping off.

Shkreli has denied the allegations, as has his co-defendant Greebel, an attorney who did legal work for Retrophin.

Jury selection in Shkreli's case is scheduled to begin June 26.