Fallen US biotech star Elizabeth Holmes faces sentencing Friday after being found guilty of defrauding investors and endangering patients in a case that has become an indictment against Silicon Valley.
Holmes was convicted on four counts in January of convincing investors over 15 years that she had developed a revolutionary medical device before the company went up in flames after a Wall Street Journal investigation.
US federal prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison sentence for Holmes and want her to pay $800 million in compensation to investors including the Walton family of Walmart, drugstore chain Walgreens and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
In a lawsuit seeking the ruling, US Attorney Stephanie Hinds said the Theranos founder was “blinded by … ambition.”
Holmes became a star in Silicon Valley when she said her now-defunct startup 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 wore discreet black turtlenecks that evoked her hero, the late Apple icon Steve Jobs.
She sold investors on the idea that her invention would disrupt medical practice, and replaced expensive lab tests with her cheap kits.
Its claims helped Theranos raise nearly $1 billion without generating meaningful revenue.
Holmes’ meteoric rise and rapid demise have been the subject of books, films, and television series that have shaped her story as a cautionary tale about the excesses of the tech industry that blindly followed a charismatic founder.
At one point, Theranos’ board of directors included former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former US Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and the late George Shultz.
Holmes will appear on Friday before the same judge who presided over her long trial in a US court in Silicon Valley, San Jose, California.
Attorneys for Holmes, 38, asked for leniency, presenting her as a devoted friend who is caring for a young child and has a second child on the way.
This has been backed up by 140 letters of support submitted to the court, including from her family, friends and a US senator.
One letter said, “I am confident that on the other side of this, Elizabeth will do wonderful things for society with her talents and boundless passion to change the world for the better.”
This was in sharp contrast to the descriptions given at her trial which portrayed her as an aspiring con artist who harassed her workers.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Holmes’ aunt, who was an early investor in Theranos, called in a letter to the court for a strict ruling on her.
Experts believe Holmes will almost certainly get a prison sentence, given the scale of the fraud and the attention the case has received.
Her defense may request that she not be released on bail pending appeal.
“I suppose the government will fight to get her sentence started on day one — they want her to go to jail,” former prosecutor Stephen Clark told the San Jose Mercury News.
“This is going to be a difficult court call. She has another child on the way,” he added.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by the NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)
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