Elizabeth Holmes, pictured in November 2021, became a Silicon Valley star when she said her now-defunct startup Theranos was perfecting an easy-to-use test kit that could perform a variety of medical diagnoses with just a few drops of blood. – Copyright AFP/GREG BAKER File
The late American biotech star Elizabeth Holmes faces sentencing on Friday after being found guilty of defrauding investors and endangering patients in a case that has been turned into an indictment against Silicon Valley.
Holmes was convicted of four counts in January for persuading investors for 15 years that she had developed a revolutionary medical device before the company collapsed following an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.
US federal prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison term for Holmes and want him to pay $800 million in restitution to investors including the Walton family of Walmart, the Walgreens drugstore chain and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
The Theranos founder was “blinded by … ambition,” US Attorney Stephanie Hinds said in a court filing defending the ruling.
Holmes became a Silicon Valley star when he said his now-defunct company was perfecting an easy-to-use test kit that could perform a wide range of medical diagnoses with just a few drops of blood.
At the time, Holmes often dressed soberly in black turtlenecks that evoked his hero, the late Apple icon Steve Jobs.
He sold investors on the idea that his invention would disrupt medical practice, replacing expensive lab tests with his cheap kits.
His claims helped Theranos raise nearly $1 billion without achieving significant revenue.
Holmes’ meteoric rise and rapid demise have been the subject of books, movies and TV series that framed his story as a warning about the excesses of the tech industry that blindly followed a charismatic founder.
At one point, Theranos’ board included former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former US Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and the late George Shultz.
Holmes will appear Friday before the same judge who presided over his lengthy trial in a US court in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose, California.
– ‘Amazing things’ –
Lawyers for Holmes, 38, have asked for leniency, presenting her as a devoted friend caring for a young child with a second child on the way.
This has been backed up by 140 letters of support filed with the court, including from his family, friends, and a US Senator.
“I am sure that on the other side of this, Elizabeth will do amazing things for society with her talent and boundless passion to change the world for the better,” one letter read.
This was in stark contrast to descriptions given at her trial that painted her as an ambitious con artist who harassed her workers.
In a letter, Holmes’s aunt, who was an early investor in Theranos, asked the court for a harsh sentence, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Experts believe Holmes will almost certainly receive jail time, given the scale of the fraud and the attention the case received.
Your defense could ask that you remain free on bail pending appeal.
“I guess the government will fight to get him to start his sentence on the 1st – they want him to go to jail,” former prosecutor Steven Clark told the San Jose Mercury News.
“That will be a difficult decision for the court. He has another child on the way,” she added.