Martin Shkreli Seems to Be Running His Company from Prison with an Illegal Phone

Looks like Pharma Bro somehow just screwed himself over—again.
Simpler times for Martin Shkreli
Simpler times for Martin Shkreli. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Maybe it was inevitable that Martin Shkreli wouldn't sit this whole "scam season" thing out.

The notorious "pharma bro" has been running a re-branded version of his old business from behind bars, according to an uncharacteristically freewheeling Wall Street Journal article that dropped Thursday. About 16 months into his seven-year sentence at Fort Dix in New Jersey, the 35-year-old has apparently been staging a comeback on a contraband cell phone and is scheming to come out of prison in 2023 "richer than he entered." Investors are understandably panicking about the so-called pharma bro's massive stake in his drug company, which he has renamed Phoenixus, and further asserted control over by stacking its five-member board with loyalists, including a 27-year-old he met on Twitter whose previous job was flipping rare sneakers.


Although the piece is ostensibly about how Shkreli's business dealings from inside, it's the anecdotes about the inmate's leisure time that jump off the page. Apparently, Shkreli has been cutting his own hair with safety scissors and working out a lot. Though the image of a buff Shkreli sporting a bowl-cut may be tantalizing, it's worth noting that his "weightlifting" means he can do a whopping 15 pushups. Meanwhile, one bit describing the hated man's new life post-sentencing is impossible to improve upon by paraphrasing, so here it is reprinted in full:

"He has made prison friends, including “Krispy” and “D-Block,” some of whom affectionately call him “Asshole,” according to people familiar with his new life. They walk alongside him in the hall to ward off shenanigans from other inmates. For reputational reasons they persuaded him to turn down a gig playing guitar in a prison band because the other members were locked up for child molestation."

The former hedge fund manager became famous in 2015 for jacking up the price of a lifesaving drug called Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent. Despite the outrage over that maneuver, gouging like that is standard operating procedure in the ruthless pharmaceutical world. Ultimately, Shkreli went to prison for lying about the performance of his hedge funds to investors and paying them back by looting another one of his companies until they could all ultimately profit. (The TL;DR here is that apparently, in the American criminal justice system, causing a minor inconvenience to members of the 1 percent is worse than causing a drug shortage for people with HIV.)


Meanwhile, even if it's nice and all that he's made friends inside, Shkreli is probably (once again) talking more than he should be.

White-collar prison consultant Larry Levine told me Shkreli was in "deep shit" and that he could soon be indicted for using the cell phone if it's found that he was using it to commit crimes. In fact, given the latest media blitz and the fact that possession of a contraband cellphone is a federal crime, Shkreli may already be in solitary confinement. It's likely that he will be moved from the cushy camp he currently inhabits into a higher-security prison, according to both Levine and another federal prison consultant named Justin Paperny.

That episode may be one of the toughest yet for a guy who used to be a regular at swanky Manhattan steakhouses.

"They do not separate white-collar offenders in transit," Paperny said. "Life in transit is the hardest part of the experience for federal inmates. Like the movie Con Air, you are shackled and begging to use the restroom. People get permanent marks on their wrists from this experience. By doing this, he positions himself to have seven years feel like 70 years."

In fact, even if he isn't transferred and isn't charged with any crime in connection with the Journal's revelations, Shkreli once again seemed to have self-destructed. (It was quickly speculated after the article's release that only Shkreli himself—under the guise of anonymity—could have made such a goofy and also possibly damaging story happen.)

"He let too many people know about this," Levine said, adding, "All I can say is: What a fucking moron."

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.