United States: Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos and fallen Silicon Valley star, sentenced to 11 years in prison for fraud

Health and Biotech

The 38-year-old entrepreneur claimed to have developed a revolutionary machine to perform blood tests. The scam had come to light in 2015.

“I am devastated by my failures.” Former Silicon Valley star Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced Friday, Nov. 18, to just over 11 years in prison for fraud in the management of her startup Theranos, which promised a revolution in blood testing. “I take, before you, my responsibilities for Theranos. I loved Theranos. It was my life’s work,” she said in court, sobbing, just before the sentencing.

The pregnant defendant has until April 27 to begin her sentence, said Judge Edward Davila, who presided over the entrepreneur’s trial, which ended in January. He found her guilty of lying to investors about the real progress of her company and required 15 years in prison for the 38-year-old former executive.

Judge Davila also wanted her to pay back $800 million to her victims. The amount she will finally have to repay to investors will be decided at a later date, announced the magistrate.

Leading supporters
At only 19 years old, Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos in 2003, on a tantalizing promise: diagnostic tools that are faster and cheaper than those of traditional laboratories. With the help of a very elaborate story, she managed in a few years to gain the trust of leading experts and to raise funds from prestigious investors. In the early 2010s, she wore a black turtleneck sweater in explicit reference to Apple founder Steve Jobs, to whom she was constantly compared.

In addition to the support of prestigious entrepreneurs, she had also won the confidence of political figures, such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who invested more than $100 million (€88 million) in Theranos.

At its peak, the company was valued at nearly $10 billion. At that time, Elizabeth Holmes, majority shareholder, was at the head of a fortune of 3.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine. It was in 2015 that the scandal was brought to light by the Wall Street Journal, which revealed that the machine never worked.