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“Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli may have gotten some measure of comeuppance when he was sentenced to seven years in prison for securities fraud in 2018. Or when he was ordered to pay $64.6 million in January 2022 for hiking up the price of Daraprim, an antiparasitic drug often prescribed to immunocompromised patients. Or when he was forced to relinquish the world’s rarest Wu-Tang Clan album, which he reportedly acquired for $2 million, along with the sole rights to listen to the beloved ‘90s hip-hop group’s latest offering.
But Shkreli was released from prison three years early in 2022, hasn’t paid his $64.6 million, per court filings, and started what appears to be another pharmaceutical company, despite a court-ordered, lifetime ban from the industry. Now, he may have gotten a small dose of karma: he’s having trouble adopting a cat, according to documents obtained by Fortune from an adoption agency based in Queens, New York.
In mid-January, Shkreli sent in an application to AdvoCat Rescue, a shelter in Forest Hills (he moved to the borough in 2022 after the conditions of his parole stipulated that he couldn’t live in Manhattan). He was trying to adopt Patti, a 2-year-old black-and-gray tabby found on the streets of Brooklyn. “In 2015, I took in an adult female cat (‘Sweetie’) from a friend who could no longer take care of her,” the former pharmaceutical executive wrote in his application, which Fortune reviewed. “I cherished her.”
After he was sentenced to prison “for non-violent financial crimes,” he said, he gave Sweetie to his parents and they cared for the cat for years while he was in prison and eventually couldn’t bear to part with her. Shkreli wanted a new cat.
‘Lol it’s a cat‘
Jana Rosenthal, the owner of AdvoCat Rescue, says she thought she recognized the name on the application. She did a bit of Googling to confirm that it was indeed the same Shkreli who had raised the price of Daraprim from $17.50 to $750 in 2015, inciting a national debate on rising drug prices. “His application was actually good in terms of the answers on paper,” she told Fortune.
(Daraprim is sometimes used off-label to treat toxoplasmosis in cats, Bruce Kornreich, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, told Fortune, although he added that it’s not necessarily the “drug of choice” for treating the parasitic infection and is commonly used in combination with other medicines.)
In the midst of her Google search, Rosenthal found evidence that she judged to be disqualifying for the former pharmaceutical executive: Before he moved to Queens, Shkreli, who listed his occupation as “investor” on his adoption application, had said on TikTok that he was planning to throw “wild parties” in his new apartment. And Rosenthal saw articles about how Shkreli did, indeed, have a cat before he was imprisoned. But he repeatedly said the cat’s name was Trashy, not Sweetie.
“As much as a person interviews the cat they are interested in adopting, we need to feel comfortable with the adopter,” Rosenthal wrote in response to Shkreli, after raising her concerns.
He replied back less than 15 minutes later: “Lol it’s a cat.”
Shkreli told Fortune that Rosenthal’s conclusions were unfair. He said his TikTok video was a joke and claimed that his assistant changed the name of his former cat “without his knowledge,” when she filled out his application for AdvoCat.
Rosenthal, who said her shelter has spent months nursing a cat with four broken legs back to health, was put off. “We value the cats we rescue,” she said in response to Shkreli’s curt email.
Shkreli, for his part, couldn’t resist a joke in reply. “I have purchased some Cas9 gene editing protein tools,” he wrote, adding later, “Prior to my adoption of Patti, I would need your organization to sign a gene editing waver [sic] holding me harmless for any mutations (double-strand breaks or otherwise) that might occur in the process.”
‘My past keeps haunting me‘
“I don’t think he has any nefarious motives,” Rosenthal, who mentioned that she often turns away prospective cat owners, said of Shkreli. “I think he just wants to adopt the cat.”
Shkreli told Fortune he was “devastated” by Rosenthal’s dismissal of his application and said he believes she has “some kind of an attitude problem,” He added, “It’s the kind of thing where my past keeps haunting me.”
Shkreli, who believes he won’t have any trouble finding another cat to adopt, has also found himself back in legal trouble. In July 2022, he announced the founding of Druglike, which says it facilitates drug discovery using a decentralized computing network powered by the cryptocurrency, Martin Shkreli Inu. The token’s total market capitalization is almost $1.5 million as of press time, according to CoinMarketCap.
In late January, the Federal Trade Commission asked a judge to hold Shkreli in contempt for not providing the agency with information needed to assess whether his founding of Druglike flouts a lifetime ban from the pharmaceutical industry.
In a court filing, Shkreli insisted that he isn’t violating his ban. And he didn’t believe he would be going back to prison anytime soon, according to his application with AdvoCat: “There is no reason to think I would need to surrender my next pet.”
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