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Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of blood testing start-up Theranos, was the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, often called a “female Steve Jobs.” But now she’s infamous for being the biggest Silicon Valley con artist. The unicorn, once valued at US$9 billion, made big promises to revolutionize blood testing with a groundbreaking device called Edison, and it successfully raised more than US$700 million from giant investors.
Then, an exposé on Holmes and Theranos revealed they lied about the technology. She was charged with 11 counts of fraud and found guilty of four counts in 2021. Last week, US prosecutors suggested 15 years prison time for Holmes, but her lawyer argued for a maximum of 18 months and reducing it to house arrest because she was harmless.
On Friday, the 38-year-old former CEO was given 11 years and three months in prison for three counts of investor fraud and one count of conspiracy. Holmes is currently pregnant with her second child and is expected to give birth before serving time next year. Also, former Theranos COO and Holmes’ ex-boyfriend Ramesh Balwani was found guilty of 12 counts of fraud in July and is set to be sentenced on December 7.
“Thank you for having me. Thank you for the courtesy and respect you have shown me,” said Elizabeth Holmes on Friday. “I have felt deep pain for what people went through because I failed them. To investors, patients, I am sorry.”
“I loved Theranos,” Holmes also said. “It was my life’s work. My team meant the world to me. I am devastated by my failings. I’m so, so sorry. I gave everything I had to build my company.”
“Balwani is not a victim,” said Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Schenk at Ramesh Balwani’s trial in July. “He is a perpetrator of the fraud … Mr. Balwani knows that the biggest threat to fraud is the truth.”
“She repeatedly chose lies, hype and the prospect of billions of dollars over patient safety and fair dealing with investors,” wrote Assistant US Attorney Robert S. Leach in a 46-page brief filed last week. “At trial, she blamed her COO (and longtime boyfriend), her board, her scientists, her business partners, her investors, her marketing firm, her attorneys, the media – everyone, that is, but herself.”