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Shkreli, World's Most Hated Pharma Bro, Hires Celebrity Lawyer

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on February 03, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Martin Shkreli became the world's most hated man last fall when he raised the price of a lifesaving medication by 5451 percent overnight. It was a role he relished, saying he only regretted not raising the price higher and taunting his critics on social media.

Shkreli's bad behavior also landed him in legal hot water. He was arrested in December on fraud charges related to previous stints as a hedge fund manager and at a biopharmaceutical company. Now, Shkreli's got himself a celebrity criminal defense lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, who has previously represented Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, and Plaxico Burress.

It's the Ponzi Scheme, Not the Price Gouging That Gets Ya

Shkreli made headlines, and gave birth to the term "pharma bro," for his medical price gouging. In August of 2015, Shkreli's former company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought up Daraprim, a drug typically used to treat toxoplasmosis in babies and AIDS patients. With no competition on the market, Shkreli jacked the price up from $13.50 to $750 per pill.

But what got him in trouble with the law came long before that. Shkreli was arrested in mid-December on charges of securities and wire fraud. According to the FBI, Shkreli defrauded investors in his hedge fund, then misappropriated more than $11 million from his pharmaceutical company, Retrophin, to cover his investment losses. It was a "securities fraud trifecta of lies, deceit, and greed," according to the FBI.

Just One of Many Well-Known Clients

Shkreli now has one of New York's more famous attorneys defending him. In a 1998 profile in New York magazine (from when Brafman was defending NYC nightclub pioneer Peter Gatien) Brafman is characterized as a "self-described 'short Jewish guy' who slept through yeshiva and did stand-up in the Catskills."

Brafman briefly worked as a prosecutor. At the Manhattan D.A.'s office, he once prosecuted a Parks Department employee for perjury over a missing pigeon. But he made his name as a criminal defense attorney -- particularly of mobsters.

He won a series of acquittals for accused mafia members.Then the celebrities came calling. Perhaps the most famous was Michael Jackson, who Brafman helped defend of child molestation in 2004.

Others include NFL player Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself in the thigh when his gun slid down his pants in a nightclub, and former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kohn after he was accused of sexually assaulting a maid.

Brafman also represented rappers Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Jay-Z, who named checked the attorney in one of his raps.

We're not sure how much Brafman is charging these days, but with clients like that, it's got to be a lot. If there's any justice in the world, he'll jack up his rates a few thousand percent the night before Shkreli's trial.

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