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U.S. sells one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album seized from Martin Shkreli

UniqueThis 37 Jul 28

By Zoe Christen Jones

/ CBS News

The U.S. government has sold the only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin," which had been seized from convicted pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli after he was sentenced in 2018. The proceeds from the album sale will go towards money Shkreli was required to pay as a result of his conviction. 

"Through the diligent and persistent efforts of this Office and its law enforcement partners, Shkreli has been held accountable and paid the price for lying and stealing from investors to enrich himself," Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said in a Tuesday press release announcing the sale. "With today's sale of this one-of-a-kind album, his payment of the forfeiture is now complete."

It is not clear who bought the album or how much they paid. The Department of Justice said in the release that the sale contract includes a provision protecting that information. 

Former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli Convicted Of Securities Fraud
Shkreli on the day of his conviction in 2017.  Bloomberg

Shkreli gained notoriety in 2015 for raising the price of the drug Daraprim to $750 a pill, a more than 5,000% increase. In 2017, he was convicted on two counts of securities fraud and one count of securities fraud conspiracy for defrauding investors and working to manipulate the price of his company's stock, the press release said. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and was also required to pay a $7.4 million forfeiture judgment, $388,000 in restitution and a $75,000 fine. 

The judge ordered Shkreli to forfeit the album and other assets to pay the forfeiture judgment. The government seized the album in 2019 after Shkreli lost his appeal and the Supreme Court declined to hear his case, according to the release. 

Shkreli purchased the album — which was created to be a piece of art and has never been released or heard in its full form publicly — in 2015, the release said. According to Bloomberg, he paid over $2 million. Shkreli live-streamed a portion of the album in 2016 to celebrate former President Donald Trump's election win. 

According to the release, the album includes "a hand-carved nickel-silver box as well as a leather-bound manuscript containing lyrics and a certificate of authenticity."

Wu Tang Album
A photograph of "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin."  U.S. Marshals Service

"There's a lot of things rich dudes buy just ... to show off," he told radio show "The Breakfast Club" about his decision to buy the album." The point is I wanted to show respect for art. Music means more to me than anything."

Wu-Tang Clan members expressed their displeasure at Shkreli owning the album on multiple occasions. Rapper Ghostface Killah has called Shkreli "the man with the 12-year-old body," while the group name-dropped him in their song "Lesson Learn'd," emphasizing how Shkreli raised drug prices.

Just before Shkreli was expected to forfeit the album as part of his conviction in 2017, the release said, he attempted to sell the album at an online auction.

First published on July 27, 2021 / 4:00 PM

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