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In 2014, when Elizabeth Holmes was 30, she was on top of the world. She quit Stanford University and started a company that is now worth $9 billion and is said to have changed how diseases are diagnosed.
Theranos said that its Edison test could find cancer and diabetes quickly with just a few drops of blood and no needles. Both very important people, Henry Kissinger and General James Mattis, were on the board.
But by 2015, Holmes’ story was falling apart, and it only took a year for the truth to be revealed. After that, she talked a lot about technology that didn’t work at all. And by 2018, the company she started was no longer in business.
In January, a jury in California found her guilty of four counts of fraud, each of which can get her up to 20 years in prison.
The jury found her not guilty on four other charges, and they couldn’t decide on three others. Holmes said he wasn’t guilty of all the charges against him and asked for a new trial, but he was denied.
She got 11 years and 3 months in jail on Friday.
During the trial, Holmes said that her former boyfriend and business partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, had hurt her emotionally and sexually. She said that the supposed crimes messed up her head at the time.
Balwani, 56 at the time, was accused of the same type of fraud and was found guilty in July. Next month, he will be given his sentence. He’d said that the claims were “ludicrous.”
Coping with pressure as a child
Elizabeth Holmes grew up in Washington, DC, with a wealthy family. People who knew her as a child said she was polite but quiet.
Holmes’s parents worked for the government on Capitol Hill for most of their lives. But, he told BBC, “they were very concerned with status” and “lived for connections.” For instance, her father’s great-great-grandfather started Fleischmann’s Yeast. He said that it changed the bread business in America, and the family was very aware of its history.
When Elizabeth was nine, she wrote a letter to her father. She said she wanted to learn to do something new that people didn’t know was possible.
She went to Stanford in 2002 to get a degree in chemical engineering. Again, she made a patch that could check for infections and give antibiotics when needed.
At age 18, she showed a stubbornness that would stay with her and drive the business she started the following year.
Meteoric rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes
A few months later, Elizabeth Holmes, who was 19, quit Stanford and started Theranos. Again, he devised a revolutionary way to test blood with a finger prick.
Powerful individuals put money in, even though they hadn’t seen the company’s audited financial statements.
US Treasury Secretary George Schultz, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the Waltons, the richest family in the US, were among those who backed her. Because of the help she got and how she acted, people believed her more.
In 2015, a “whistleblower” spoke out about problems with the Edison, the company’s best-known testing device. This was the first sign that things were going wrong.
As lawsuits piled up, Holmes’s partners cut ties with him, and in 2016, US officials told him he couldn’t run a blood-testing service for two years.
Theranos stopped doing business in 2018.
In March of that year, Holmes paid $700 million to settle civil charges from financial regulators that she had lied to investors to get their money.
But three months later, police arrested Elizabeth Holmes and Mr. Balwani on charges of wire fraud and planning to commit wire fraud.
Prosecutors said she lied to patients about the tests and to investors about how well the business was doing.
As the trial for the Theranos scandal got closer, it surprised people how much Holmes stuck to her original story. And people who knew her said they didn’t think she had changed.
Holmes’s lawyers said she shouldn’t go to jail because she wasn’t a threat to society. Instead, they stood up for her in front of more than 130 people, including Senator Cory Booker.
But prosecutors said that her ambition blinded her.