Elizabeth Holmes prosecutors seek 15-year sentence and $800m in restitution

Theranos founder faces maximum of 20 years in prison after she was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence Elizabeth Holmes to 15 years in prison and require the Theranos founder to pay $800m in restitution, according to court documents filed on Friday.

A jury found Holmes guilty in January of four counts of investor fraud and conspiracy. Her sentencing is scheduled for 18 November, and she faces a maximum 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors argued that “considering the extensiveness of Holmes’s fraud”, their recommended sentencing would “reflect the seriousness of the offenses, provide for just punishment for the offenses, and deter Holmes and others”.

Holmes’s lawyer argued in documents filed on Thursday that the ex-Theranos boss should not be sentenced to prison at all and, at most, should receive 18 months of house arrest. The court filings argued that Holmes had been made a “caricature to be mocked and vilified” by the media over the years, though she is a caring mother and friend.

“Ms Holmes is no danger to the public,” Holmes’s lawyer said in the court documents. “She has no criminal history, has a perfect pretrial services compliance record, and is described by the people who know her repeatedly as a gentle and loving person who tries to do the right thing.”

“Ms Holmes will never be able to seek another job or meet a new friend without the negative caricature acting as a barrier,” her lawyers argued.

Included in her lawyers’ court documents were letters from family and friends attesting to Holmes’s character and asking for leniency. Among those who wrote on her behalf is the Democratic New Jersey senator Cory Booker, who wrote in a letter dated in September that he considers Holmes a friend after meeting her at a conference in 2016.

“In the years since, I’ve always been struck by the way our conversations focused on her desires to make a positive impact on the world,” Booker wrote. “I still believe that she holds on to the hope that she can make contributions to the lives of others, and that she can, despite mistakes, make the world a better place.”

Holmes rose to fame as the 19-year-old founder of Theranos, a company that claimed its technology could conduct tests with just a drop of blood. Theranos ballooned to a valuation of $9bn, with the help of big-name investors and board members, and Holmes herself once boasted a net worth of over $4bn. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the company’s test had significant inaccuracies and that it was actually performing tests using traditional blood testing methodology and technology.

During the trial, witnesses said that their concerns over Theranos’s technology had largely been ignored and that Holmes and her then romantic partner, Sunny Balwani, who was the company’s chief operating officer, retaliated against employees who spoke out.

Holmes argued that Balwani, who is 19 years older, was emotionally and physically abusive during their relationship, influencing her behavior as Theranos’s leader. Balwani himself was convicted in July of 12 counts of fraud and is due to be sentenced in December.


Lauren Aratani

The GuardianTramp

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