Way out in the sticks of central Pennsylvania, not far from the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, Martin Shkreli is busy plotting his comeback. This is not his choice of headquarters — he would rather be scheming from his deluxe apartment in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighbourhood — but options are somewhat limited when you’re inmate 87850-053 of Allenwood Low Federal Correctional Institution.
Shkreli, or the Pharma Bro, as he likes to be called, is currently serving a seven-year sentence for securities fraud. At the time of his trial, New York media, which loves a villain, painted him as a grinning demon who rampaged his way through the pharmaceutical industry, hiking the price of an AIDS drug from $13.50 per tablet to $750.
So improving his image as a ruthless capitalist is high on the agenda when he gets out, according to a string of posts and comments he has made while inside. He also keeps a prison diary, but this is mostly financial observations and book reviews. Since his sentencing in 2018, he has been posting on and off on Reddit under his username — martinshkreli — via two friends named Mo and Reida. Shkreli sends messages via a prison email service to his mates, who paste them online for him, and feed Shkreli with comments and questions from his army of fans. They make for fascinating reading, and give a glimpse into what he hopes to do when he becomes a free man again.
In one set of comments, Shkreli, 38, describes his portrayal by mainstream media as a “concoction” that he enjoyed creating. Shkreli-heads will remember him giving press interviews while cruising around his apartment on a hoverboard, telling female journalists he had crushes on them, and posting on Facebook to offer $5,000 for a lock of Hillary Clinton’s hair for DNA sequencing (at the time, he was out on bail which the judge revoked, and Shkreli found himself “in what could only be described as ‘sleepaway camp for thugs’”).
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