Former Theranos chief operating officer and president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 13 years in prison for fraud after unraveling the blood-testing juggernaut led to criminal charges in California federal court against both Balwani and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. he was sentenced on November 18 to more than 11 years in prison.
At the sentencing hearing, Balwani’s attorneys tried to pin the blame on Holmes, telling U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila that “decisions were made by Elizabeth Holmes.”
Davila had set a sentence range of 11 years plus 3 months to 14 years, but prosecutors today sought a 15-year prison sentence given his “significant” supervisory role at Theranos’ lab company.
The final sentence was 155 months, plus three years of probation. Davila set a surrender date for March 15, 2023.
Sunny Balwani, former president of Theranos Inc., arrives in federal court in San Jose, California on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Balwani and Holmes, former romantic partners, helped Theranos as the company experienced a meteoric rise, attracting backers ranging from the DeVos family to news mogul Rupert Murdoch. It was one of Murdoch’s publications, The Wall Street Journal, that first reported irregularities with Theranos’ supposedly revolutionary blood testing machines.
As COO, Balwani managed both the laboratory operations and the financial aspects of the company. Theranos was marred by repeated failures during his tenure, including forged documents and erroneous test results.
“I’m responsible for everything at Theranos,” Balwani said in a message to Holmes. Balwani assumed broad responsibility for the day-to-day running of the company.
Theranos claimed the machines needed just a few drops of blood to work and could perform more than 1,000 tests. In reality, the Journal reported that the company was only able to handle a little over a dozen tests. The Journal’s coverage ultimately led to the company’s dissolution in 2018 and later the arrest of Balwani and Holmes on fraud charges.
Balwani’s sentencing in federal court marks the end of the Theranos saga, which thrilled the public and led to documentaries and new treatments.
With a star-studded investor list, an engaging founder who drew comparisons to Apple’s Steve Jobs, and a potentially revolutionary technology, the company represented the pinnacle of ingenuity in Silicon Valley for a time.
The revelations about Theranos caused a stunning fall from grace for both Balwani and Holmes, who were in relationships for much of their tenure with the company. Holmes accused Balwani of abuse in legal proceedings and provided text messages and contemporaneous notes of their relationship as evidence.
“Kill old Elizabeth,” Balwani is said to have told her.
Balwani committed a “decade-long campaign of psychological abuse,” Holmes’ lawyers argued. Balwani is almost 20 years older than Holmes, who testified that he ran the lab and the financial side of the company.
This is an evolving story. Check back later for updates.