Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, the Silicon Valley company that vowed to revolutionise blood testing but turned out to be a huge scam, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for defrauding investors. The Theranos company claimed that with just a few drops of blood, its test could detect conditions such as cancer and diabetes very quickly, without the hassle and delays of conventional methods.
Holmes, often compared to Apple founder Steve Jobs, founded the company at age 19. She managed to attract a lot of investors including Rupert Murdoch and the family that owns Walmart. So, by the time she was 30, Forbes named her the youngest self-made billionaire, as the company was valued back then at $9 billion, her fortune was valued at $3.6 billion.
Just a year later, in 2015, the entire empire that Holmes had built began to crumble, and soon enough it became clear that it was all a big fraud. The technology Holmes and Theranos were pitching didn’t work at all, and by 2018 the company collapsed. This time, Forbes named Holmes one of the “World’s Most Disappointing Leaders” with zero fortune.
In January this year, she was convicted by a California jury on four counts of fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. As per BBC, Holmes, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, has requested a new trial, but was denied. On Friday, a San Jose district judge sentenced Holmes to 11 years and three months in prison, estimating that her actions caused investors $121 million in losses.
Before the sentence was issued, Holmes read a speech to the court in which she apologised to investors and patients. “I am devastated by my failings. I have felt deep pain for what people went through, because I failed them”.
“I regret my failings with every cell of my body.”Elizabeth Holmes
While the judge referred to Holmes as a “brilliant” entrepreneur, he stated: “Failure is normal. But failure by fraud is not OK.”
She was required to surrender to begin serving her sentence on 27 April. Holmes who is mother of a one-year-old son, is currently pregnant with her second child. Her attorneys will most likely attempt to delay her incarceration until after the birth, the due date is not yet known. The father of the child, her partner Billy Evans, told the judge that he fears for “a future in which my son grows up with a relationship with his mother on the other side of glass armed by guards”.