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Martin Shkreli out of prison, trying to start rap career

Disgraced “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli is now free in New York City — and angling to reclaim his place on social media.

As of last week, the 39-year-old was out of the Brooklyn halfway house where he lived for five months after serving five years in a federal prison in Pennsylvania for securities fraud.

Besides trying to start up a collaboration with hip-hop artist Moneybagg Yo, Shkreli has been holding court on his YouTube channel and made an appearance Wednesday at Mainnet, an annual tech conference focusing on cryptocurrency.

Regularly labeled the “most hated man in America” in 2015, Shkreli became symbolic of Gordon Gekko-like greed when, as the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he obtained the license to produce the AIDS drug Daraprim — and promptly raised the price from $17.50 to $750 per pill.

Shkreli — who also co-founded three hedge-fund firms, software start-up Gödel Systems and the pharmaceutical company Retrophin — was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2017.

Martin Shkreli — who became notorious as “Pharma Bro” after astronomically jacking up the price of a life-saving prescription drug — is now out of prison on securities fraud charges and ready to reinvent himself.
Stephen Yang for NY Post

He was found guilty of three of the eight counts against him: two counts of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

Prosecutors in Brooklyn federal court mounted an exhaustive five-week case against Shkreli, accusing him of draining funds from Retrophin to pay off investors of his failed hedge funds, MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare.

Once worth around $45 million, he reportedly is now close to broke. Shkreli did not respond to questions from The Post.

One source told The Post Shkreli had been staying with one of his two sisters in Queens or Brooklyn after the halfway house, but may be in his own place now. In a TikTok video posted last month, Shkreli said he preferred to live in Manhattan but can’t for parole reasons and hoped to get a place in Brooklyn or Queens.

Shkreli (left) made an appearance this week at the Mainnet crypto conference in Manhattan.
William C. Lopez/NY Post

“If you live in a lit building and you want Pharma Bro there, let me know and I’ll go rent an apartment in your building,” Shkreli said in the video. “There has to be wild parties … it’s gotta be a dope building with sick views.”

Pashko Shkreli, 68 still lives with his wife in the small Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, apartment where they raised Martin and his two sisters. It’s at the end of a dimly-lit hall in a slightly run-down building, four stories above a bustling, working-class neighborhood of Orthodox Jews and Eastern European immigrants. Martin was born at nearby Coney Island Hospital in 1983.

“Martin did nothing as bad as some of these criminals you see assaulting people on the streets and getting out the next day, but he was treated as someone much worse,” Pashko, who immigrated here from Montenegro with his wife, told The Post last week.

After getting out of an NYC halfway house, Shkreli was reportedly staying in Brookyn with a sister.
Gabriella Bass

“I don’t think he should have gotten so much prison time and I don’t think he should have gotten such bad press. The media is very unfair to Martin.”

“Pashko is such a lovely man,” Shkreli’s former girlfriend Christie Smythe told The Post. “I think when you are as smart as Martin is and you come from such humble circumstances you feel like a misfit and you’re always trying to prove yourself. Especially when you’re as ambitious as Martin has always been.”

His childhood home is far from the dizzying heights of Wall Street to which Shkreli briefly ascended as a Manhattan-based hedge-fund boss.

Pharma Bro fans posted #FreeShkreli pleas on social media during his incarceration.

Friends and associates say that Shkreli’s modest beginnings — he went to the same Brooklyn public schools as Bernie Sanders and was so bright that, his father said, he frequently skipped grades — are key to his Shakespearean-like downfall.

They claim he was basically a math and science nerd who was, and still is, so obsessed with being cool that he deliberately molded himself into a scoundrel for cred and clout.

“Martin as a young man clearly was never cool. And he has this voracious desire to be cool,” said Jason Aryeh, one of the activist investors who successfully ousted Shkreli as boss of Turing in late August. “He’s very, very smart and, with that tremendous intellect, could focus on doing positive things for the world. He has a voracious appetite for fame. He’s a very bright guy but he found that the only way to keep himself relevant was to be the scoundrel. Doing good is not nearly as salacious.”

Shkreli plays Fortnite on Youtube and tweeted a desire to work with rapper Moneybagg Yo.

At the ex-convict’s 2018 sentencing. U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said that “for years, Shkreli told lie after lie in order to steal his investors’ money, manipulate the stock market and enrich himself.”

He also was banned from Twitter in 2017 for the “targeted harassment” of a journalist.

His former girlfriend Smythe, a journalist who met Shkreli when she was assigned to cover him for Bloomberg News in 2015 and eventually left her husband for him, told The Post that Shkreli got angry with her for talking to the press because she has spoken about “the other side of him.”

Shkreli grew up in this Bay Ridge apartment building, where his parents — Eastern European immigrants — still live.
Dana Kennedy

“He can be very sweet and childlike and, believe it or not, has a naive innocence at times that he doesn’t want people to know about,” Smythe said.

Indeed, Shkreli was back to trying hard to be cool last week as soon as he was relieved of his ankle monitor.

He celebrated his newly-won freedom by posting a selfie on his Instagram account and announcing that there were “so many ratchet thots in this club not sure what to do.” (“Ratchet Thot,” which is also the title of a 2108 Lilmar rap track, usually is a derogatory term meaning slutty women.)

Shkreli's ex Christie Smyth told The Post, “When you are as smart as Martin is and you come from such humble circumstances ... you’re always trying to prove yourself.
Stephen Yang for NY Post

In June, Shkreli, who holds a degree in business administration from Baruch College, announced he was working on a rap album that includes a song called “God’s Gift.” He also tweeted out his desire to work with no less than MoneyBagg Yo, currently one of the hottest recording artists in rap.

Moneybagg Yo — known as “Bagg” by his friends — earned praise in a New York Times magazine profile two weeks ago. The story, pegged to his upcoming fifth studio album, called the Memphis native “trap’s new ambassador” and noted that five singles from his 2021 album “A Gangster’s Pain” reached the top 20 of Billboard’s rap chart.

“My goal is to attract the esteemed @MoneyBaggYo to feature his sublime skill in verse, as a guest contributor to the song,” Shkreli tweeted. Attempts by The Post to reach Bagg, real name DeMario DeWayne White Jr., were unsuccessful.

Shkreli is trying to start up a collaboration with hip-hop artist Moneybagg Yo.

Shkreli’s own effort to gain entry to the hip-hop community began in 2015 when he purchased the only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” for $2 million during his heyday as a hedge fund manager and pharmaceutical company founder. 

Wu-Tang insisted Shkreli not release any of the songs on “Once Upon a Time” — called a “protest against the devaluation of music” by the Times — to the public until 2103.

In July 2021 a judge forced Shkreli to sell the album to help satisfy an outstanding restitution debt of $2.2 million, out of $7.4 million total, which was still owed to his victims.

Shkreli purchased the only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin" for $2 million and was court-ordered to sell it.

Now, Shkreli has been permanently banned from serving as a public company officer or director. But he’s looking for other ways to make money. in addition to working on his rap album, he’s been trying to revive what was once a powerful social media presence and doling out investment advice, including crypto strategies, in question-and-answer sessions on investor podcasts like “Stacks.” Shkreli also has his own Youtube channel, with 30,000 subscribers, which has lately featured long streams of him playing the popular video game Fortnite.

Though he still has his fans — who posted #FreeShkreli tweets and Reddit posts — during his incarceration, others who know him are not so optimistic that Shkreli can get out of his own way long enough to achieve something of lasting value.

Martin's father, Pashko Shkreli, says his son's punishment was far too harsh for any crime he committed.
Martin’s father, Pashko Shkreli, says his son’s punishment was far too harsh for any crime he committed.

“I’m sure he could make a real positive impact on the world if that was the way he deployed his intelligence,” Aryeh said. “Sadly, Martin is all about Martin. Martin is one of those people who believes that no press is bad press. I think he was probably a young man who maybe didn’t get the social attention that he wished he had.”

Smythe, though, agrees with Shkreli’s dad that the ex-con got a raw deal in the media.

“News stories about him were only ‘allowed’ to fit into one of two frames,” Smythe wrote in her serialized memoir about their relationship, SMIRK, which is in talks to become an independent film. “Either Martin Shkreli was doing something bad that should be hated, or something bad was happening to Martin Shkreli. Facts that did not fit either one of those themes were either discarded or contorted so that they did fit.”

Since his conviction, Shkreli has been permanently banned from serving as a public company officer or director.

Smythe, who is in a new relationship, said she has reunited with Shkreli once since his release from prison — and that, while it was an enjoyable moment, she didn’t feel “the spark” that once existed between them.

“I’m hopeful for him though,” Smythe said. “I want him to be productive and to do his best and not hurt anyone. He has this facade up because he wanted to much to change the narrative he had about himself but I hope he feels more relaxed now and can be himself more.”

Pashko, who worked with his wife as a janitor when Martin was growing up, said he, too, is optimistic about his son’s release from prison and his future.

“He’s a good man and he was a very smart boy,” Pashko said. He first suggested taking a stroll outside his apartment with the Post’s reporter but then got a call from his son.

“I apologize but Martin says he doesn’t want a story now,” his father said. “I’m so sorry to be rude.”