Elizabeth Holmes is found guilty of defrauding Theranos’ investors and patients : NPR


imageEnlarge this image In this file photo, Elizabeth Holmes walks into federal court in San Jose, Calif.Nic Coury/AP hide caption

toggle caption Nic Coury/AP

In this file photo, Elizabeth Holmes walks into federal court in San Jose, Calif.

Nic Coury/AP Elizabeth Holmes, the former chief executive of the once high-flying biotech startup Theranos, was found guilty on four of 11 charges of defrauding the company’s investors and patients.She was found not guilty on three counts.

Holmes could face up to 20 years in prison, although legal experts say her sentence is likely to be less than that.

During the nearly four-month federal trial in San Jose, jurors heard from over 30 witnesses called by prosecutors.Together, they painted Holmes as a charismatic entrepreneur who secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for a medical device that never delivered on her promises.When Theranos’ technology fell short, the government argued, Holmes covered it up and kept insisting that the machines would transform how diseases are diagnosed through blood tests.

The jury’s decision followed seven days of deliberations.

Still, the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on three charges, which will be resolved at a later date..

Holmes accuses deputy Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani of sexual abuse Holmes took the witness stand for more than 20 hours to defend herself.She accused her ex-boyfriend and former deputy at Theranos, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, of sexual abuse, saying that clouded her sense of judgement.

Balwani faces a separate fraud trial in the same court in February.

Holmes also showed remorse on the stand.She said she wished she had handled some key business matters differently.

But she blamed others for the downfall of Theranos.She said lab directors whom she had trusted were the ones closest to the technology.And she said Balwani, not her, oversaw the company’s financial forecasts, which were later discovered to be grossly inflated.

Yet the government offered evidence that Holmes had an iron grip on Theranos’ operations.Prosecutors arguedshe did not stop — and even helped spread —falsehoods about the company that misled investors into pouring millions into the startup.Theranos’ value, once estimated at more than $9 billion, was ultimately squandered.

Promised a finger prick of blood would scan for hundreds of diseases Holmes dropped out of Stanford at age 19 to found Theranos.She claimed she had invented a new way to scan for hundreds of diseases using just a drop or two of blood from a finger prick.

But when Theranos’ machines were rolled out to Walgreens stores in California and Arizona, they gave patients false or flawed results.One patient testified that she was led to believe she was having a miscarriage after taking a Theranos test, when indeed her pregnancy was viable.Another patient thought her cancer had returned, when it had not, following a test.

Lawyers for Holmes have vowed to appeal.

Legal experts say winning an appeal of a jury verdict is rare, however.

It is unusual for tech executives to face criminal changes when their startups collapse under the weight of unrealized promises.Former prosecutors have said that the egregiousness of the fraud at Theranos, and the fact that the startup was in the highly-regulated health care industry, where the health of private citizens is on the line, distinguished this collapse from that of other once-hyped startups that also flamed out..

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