The ex-partner of disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes has joined her accomplice in being sentenced to more than a decade in prison.
Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani was jailed for nearly 13 years for his role in the company’s blood test hoax, which saw investors defrauded and patients put at risk as the couple lived a life of glory and fortune.
It comes just weeks after Holmes, once described by Forbes as America’s youngest self-made billionaire woman, learned she would spend more than 11 years behind bars for his role in a case that gripped the world.
Balwani, 57, was convicted in July of fraud and conspiracy related to fake medical technology from the Silicon Valley company that was sold as being able to test dozens of diseases with a drop of blood.
He was chief operating officer at Theranos and was romantically involved with Holmes, the chief executive, until their bitter breakup in 2016 after revelations about the company first appeared in The Wall Street Journal. .
During her trial, Holmes, now 38, accused Balwani of manipulating her through years of emotional and sexual abuse, allegations her lawyer denied.
In court papers, his legal team portrayed him as a hard-working immigrant who left India in the 1980s – but prosecutors said he ‘told a false story’ about Theranos technology after he ” made the calculated decision that honesty would destroy” the business.
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Who is “Sunny” Balwani?
Balwani graduated from the University of Texas in 1990 with a degree in information systems.
He then moved to Silicon Valley, where he first worked as a computer programmer for Microsoft before founding an online startup that he sold for millions of dollars during the dot-com boom of the 1990s.
Upon meeting Holmes, who had dropped out of Stanford University to pursue his ambition to launch Theranos, he was quickly captivated by her – just as investors in the company would soon be.
Theranos was founded in 2003, helped by Holmes by redirecting family funds intended for his studies into the company.
Inspired by his idol Steve Jobs, the famous co-founder of Apple, Holmes’ company took Silicon Valley by storm promising a revolutionary blood test technology that attracted money from Rupert Murdoch and the giant American pharmacy Walgreens.
Balwani’s lawyers say he invested $5m (£4m) in a stake worth around $500m (£411m) – a fraction of Holmes’ one-time fortune of 4 $.5 billion (£3.6 billion) and the maximum enterprise value of $9 billion. (£7.4 billion).
“He maintained a facade”
Prosecutors said Balwani was a willing accomplice to Holmes’ lies about Theranos technology and “willingly maintained this facade of achievement” on a daily basis for years.
He was portrayed as a ruthless and power-hungry figure, as they sought to secure a conviction on a dozen charges.
While Holmes was acquitted of several counts of fraud and conspiracy against people who paid for Theranos blood tests, Balwani was found guilty of 12 of his own.
Balwani’s lawyers had claimed that Holmes “was considerably more guilty” of the fraud.
“He actually invested millions of dollars of his own money; he never sought fame or recognition; and he has a long history of quiet giving to the less fortunate,” they said.
Balwani “lost his career, his reputation and his ability to work again in a meaningful way”, they added, after being portrayed in various media over the scandal – including an acclaimed TV series.
Prosecutors want Holmes and Balwani to each pay $804m (£660m) to defrauded investors.
The judge postponed a decision on this when sentencing Holmes until an unspecified future date.