Rise and fall of ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes as former Silicon Valley icon accused of lying in fraud trial

ELIZABETH Holmes was once dubbed the richest self-made woman, lauded by Silicon Valley as the next Steve Jobs and at the helm of a blood testing start up valued at $10 billion.

But this week the disgraced businesswoman, 37, will stand trial accused of tricking investors into funding her company Theranos Inc, which prosecutors say was a fraudulent operation.


Stanford dropout Holmes, who recently gave birth to her first child, faces 20 years in prison after she was charged with federal fraud and conspiracy charges.  

Her trial marks a sharp fall from grace which began after it was revealed Theranos' technology did not work as advertised.

Holmes had founded the blood-testing company in 2003 at the age of just 19, pitching its technology as a cheaper way to run dozens of blood tests with just a prick of a finger and a few droplets of blood.

Holmes said she was inspired to start the company in response to her fear of needles.

Seen as a rising star in Silicon Valley that led to comparisons to Apple's Steve Job and Holmes fueled that idea by dressing almost entirely in black turtleneck sweaters.

Holmes stands accused alongside former Theranos President – and her ex boyfriend – Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

Reports that surfaced last week now suggest she plans to accuse her former lover Balwani, 56, of sexual and emotional abuse as part of her defense.

Theranos – a notoriously secretive company – shared very little about its blood-testing machine with the public or medical community.

But they did not put off investors.

In fact, they bought what Holmes was selling and put hundreds of millions of dollars into the company.

At one time, Theranos was worth more than $10 billion and Holmes the nation’s youngest self-made female billionaire.

Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz were on its board.

STAR FALLS

But when a Wall Street Journal article lifted the lid of the company's alleged shortcomings in 2015, the company was forced to close in 2018.

Walgreens ended its blood-testing partnership with the company, and the Department of Health and Human Services effectively banned Theranos in 2016 from doing any blood testing work at all.

Holmes and former Theranos President Balwani are now accused of scamming $700million out of investors.

They are also accused of using the money from investors to subsidize their luxury lifestyles.

Prosecutors had to delay the trial after Holmes' lawyers told the government she was pregnant on March 2 and requested that the judge postpone jury selection until August 31.

The father of Holmes’ baby is reportedly hotel heir William “Billy” Evans, 29, whom she wed in 2019. He is the heir to the Evans Hotel Group's chain of hotels located in California.

STANDING TRIAL

According to her attorney's submissions to the court, it looks likely Holmes will to the stand and testify at her imminent trial.

Jury selection begins on Tuesday for Holmes' trial in San Jose, California – which is expected to be months long.

Witnesses are expected to include big name investors as well as patients who say they were misdiagnosed as a result of the machines.

It was reported last week that Holmes will accuse ex-boyfriend Balwani of sexual and emotional abuse as part of her defense.

Newly unsealed legal filings in her case reveal she plans to defend herself by arguing that he emotionally and sexually abused her, impairing her state of mind at the time of the alleged crimes, reports NPR.

LOVER ACCUSED

Balwani has been charged in a separate fraud trial, due to take place next year.

His lawyer Jeffrey Coopersmith has branded Holmes' allegations as "salacious and inflammatory".

Holmes – indicted in 2018 – has pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding investors, patients and doctors.

Professor Thomas Joo told CNN: "Did she intentionally lie in order to trick people?"

"The most difficult thing to prove is intent," he added.


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