(Adds quote from Shkreli's lawyer)
NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) - The sentencing hearing for Martin Shkreli, the former drug company executive who made headlines by jacking up the price of a lifesaving drug before he was found guilty of defrauding investors, began on Friday with a plea for leniency from his lawyer.
Shkreli, 34, appeared before U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. His lawyers had asked the judge to impose a sentence of 12 to 18 months, while prosecutors have sought at least 15 years.
"Ive got my begging voice on, Shkreli's lawyer Benjamin Brafman told the judge.
Brafman, noting that he was old enough to be Shkrelis father, said his client had not always been easy to work with.
There are times when I want to hug him and hold him and comfort him and there are times when I want to punch him in the face, Brafman said.
He said the prosecutors had given no justification for seeking a sentence of 15 years, which he called a made-up number that was very devoid of compassion or rehabilitation.
The Brooklyn-born entrepreneur became known as the "Pharma Bro" in September 2015 after founding Turing Pharmaceuticals, buying the anti-parasitic drug Daraprim and raising its price by 5,000 percent to $750 per pill.
Shkreli was indicted for the unrelated securities fraud charges in December 2015.
A jury in August found Shkreli guilty of defrauding investors in two hedge funds he ran, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare, by sending them fake account statements and concealing huge losses. He was also convicted of scheming to prop up the stock price of Retrophin Inc, a drug company he founded in 2011.
Shkreli has been in jail since September, when Matsumoto revoked his bail after he offered his social media followers $5,000 if they could bring him a hair from former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
His lawyers had argued for a lenient sentence in court filings partly on the grounds that his investors eventually made money after Shkreli paid them in stock and cash from Retrophin.
Prosecutors had argued that Shkreli should not get any credit for what they described as stealing from Retrophin to pay off the investors and have said he did not show any genuine remorse.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Chizu Nomiyama)