February 23, 2018 / 6:20 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Shkreli loses bid to toss stock manipulation conviction

(Updates with sourcing from hearing, background)

By Brendan Pierson

Feb 23 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday refused to overturn former drug company executive Martin Shkreli's conviction of scheming to manipulate his company's stock price.

U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said at a court hearing in Brooklyn that there was enough evidence to support a jury's verdict last August that Shkreli tried to prop up the price of shares in Retrophin Inc by directing people he knew not to sell them.

Shkreli, who was ordered jailed in September after he put a $5,000 bounty on Hillary Clinton's hair in a Facebook post, was present at the hearing, sporting a new beard and smiling at times.

Shkreli, 34, became known as "Pharma Bro" after raising the price of anti-infection drug Daraprim by over 5,000 percent in 2015 while he was chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals. The move sparked outrage by patients and U.S. lawmakers.

His criminal convictions are unrelated to Daraprim, stemming instead from securities fraud charges brought in December 2015.

In addition to the stock manipulation charge, Shkreli stands convicted of lying to investors in two hedge funds he controlled, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare.

Matsumoto did not rule on the key issue at Friday's hearing - the amount of financial loss for which Shkreli was responsible, which could play a key role in his March 9 sentencing.

Prosecutors do not dispute that Shkreli's investors eventually came out ahead after Shkreli paid them in shares of Retrophin, which he founded in 2011.

The jury found Shkreli not guilty of a separate charge that he conspired to defraud Retrophin when he used the company to pay back the investors.

Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Shkreli, argued at Friday's hearing that Shkreli should get credit for paying the investors back. Shkreli's lawyers had argued in court filings that Shkreli's conduct had caused no financial loss at all, which could bolster an argument for a light sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alixandra Smith, a prosecutor, said it was Shkreli's intent that mattered.

"He did, in fact, take that money to perpetuate a fraud," she said. "What mattered to him was his reputation as a hedge fund manager."

Prosecutors have argued for a loss amount of as much as $20 million, which could result in a much harsher sentence under federal guidelines. Though judges must consider the guidelines, they are not mandatory.

Shkreli's lawyers and prosecutors have not yet submitted filings on what the sentence should be. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson, editing by G Crosse)

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