Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was one of Silicon Valley’s most celebrated entrepreneurs, only to be exposed as a fraud. All appeals for her freedom have failed. The 39-year-old once self-made billionaire is beginning her 11-year prison sentence on May 30, 2023.
The punishment for her deceit will keep her separated from the life she used to lead including being away from her two young children for 11+1⁄4 years (135 months). Her son William was born in July 2021, which delayed the start of her trial. Her 3-month-old daughter Invicta was born after her conviction. Holmes' husband, multi-millionaire William "Billy" Evans married Holmes in a secret ceremony in 2019 when Theranos began to collapse.
Holmes' motives are mysterious, and the public still questions her true intentions. Even the federal judge who presided over her trial seemed mystified. Holmes’ defenders continue to ask whether the punishment fits the crime.
Elizabeth Holmes' Crime
The founder of Theranos was convicted of four counts of fraud-related charges. Holmes developed technology that she repeatedly boasted would quickly scan for hundreds of diseases and other health problems with a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick.
The technology never worked as promised. Instead, Theranos tests produced wildly unreliable results that could have endangered patients’ lives.
Holmes also intimidated Theranos employees who helped uncover the flaws with the blood-testing technology.
According to The Wall Street Journal beginning in October 2015, Holmes raised nearly $1 billion by deceiving investors, including Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. It was the duping of those investors that led to her prison sentence and a $452 million restitution bill.
Holmes testified in her own defense during seven days of testimony. He insisted that she was innocent. The jury and judge didn't see it that way.
Elizabeth Holmes' Incarceration
District Judge Edward Davila who sentenced Holmes ordered her to report to prison by 2 p.m. on May 30, 2023. He recommended that she spend the next 11 years incarcerated in the Bryan prison camp in Bryan Texas about 100 miles northwest of her hometown of Houston. It is a minimum-security, all-female facility. It houses about 655 inmates. Inmates there say they are welcoming Holmes and want her to be their friend, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Bryan is run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which oversees inmates who have been convicted of federal crimes, like counterfeiting, treason, and interstate criminal activity.
Holmes' family will be able to visit her. Her young children can visit her on weekends and holidays. She will be able to hold them because they are under 10 years old. There is a play area for children in the visiting area.
Holmes was once a billionaire, but while in prison she has to get up at 6 a.m. every day and work for only 12 cents an hour.
Elizabeth Holmes' Supporters
Holmes’ supporters still contend she always had good intentions and was unfairly scapegoated by the Justice Department. According to those supporters, Holmes was singled out because she is a woman while men have gotten away with similar things. For example, Elon Musk has repeatedly made misleading statements about the capabilities of Tesla’s self-driving cars.
Elizabeth Holmes' Chief Operating Officer
Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, 57, began serving a nearly 13-year prison sentence last month in Southern California. He was convicted of 12 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy committed while he was Theranos' chief operating officer.
Some think his punishment is unfair to be more than the Theranos founder and CEO.
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