News USA The conviction of the partner and ex-partner of Elizabeth Holmes closes the...

The conviction of the partner and ex-partner of Elizabeth Holmes closes the Theranos scandal after four years

Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny, upon his arrival at the San Jose courts this Wednesday morning.JOHN G. MABANGLO (EFE)

Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny, will suffer the same fate as Elizabeth Holmes, who was his partner and sentimental partner for a decade. The businessman was sentenced this Wednesday by a federal judge to almost 13 years in prison for having defrauded the investors of Theranos, the company that promised to revolutionize health analysis in the world with its technology. Balwani’s sentence, who was the director of operations of the venture, is higher than that received by Holmes in mid-November. With this sentence, one of the biggest technological scandals to come out of Silicon Valley has been closed.

Balwani, 57, was found guilty of seven counts of fraud and conspiring against shareholders of Theranos, a company that quickly attracted the attention of powerful checkbooks in search of promising investments. Among those who fell for Holmes and Balwani’s trap were Bill Clinton, Carlos Slim, Rupert Murdoch and Jim Mattis, who was Donald Trump’s defense secretary. Balwani himself lost about five million dollars in the company, according to his defense.

Prosecutors were seeking 15 years in prison for Balwani, who was directly in charge of supervising the laboratory where the company’s machines reportedly performed hundreds of disease diagnoses with just a few drops of blood. This technology caused a sensation among the tech community in San Francisco, where Balwani had worked at Microsoft and other e-commerce companies without any background in healthcare. The company contracted with one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains to do these tests in its stores, but Theranos failed to deliver reliable results to hundreds of customers.

The trial revealed that on many occasions, Theranos employees took blood samples to traditional laboratories for diagnosis. But the scarce blood substance gave erroneous results in these tests. Despite this, Holmes and Balwani spread the importance of their supposed technological advance to the four winds.

Judge Ed Davila said Balwani doubled down on his bet even when he knew things were not going well. Evidence shown at trial proved that he knew of the fraud. “There were lies, deceit… The defendant chose to go ahead with his deception, he continued to perpetrate the fraud,” the robed man said.

Balwani joined the company in 2009 as vice president after giving Holmes one of the loans that started the company. Shortly thereafter he became COO, a position he held until he left Theranos in 2016. During that time he was romantically involved with Holmes, despite being 19 years older than him. In two parallel trials held in California, the defense of each defendant tried to blame the other for starting the fraudulent scheme.

This legal strategy produced moments worthy of a soap opera. During his trial, held in three months of 2021, Holmes broke down in tears on the stand to remember the toxic dynamic that he lived with Sunny. This, said the entrepreneur, forced her to start the day at four in the morning and stick to a strict diet with low caloric intake. Likewise, she had to minimize the time dedicated to the family and dedicate as many hours as possible to Theranos.

“Sometimes I went up [a la oficina] And he did things to me that I didn’t want to do. It hurt me,” Holmes said in court, something Balwani denied. After one of these encounters, he wrote: “It hurts so much. Too. I can’t focus on anything except why? This message was followed by a text to Balwani: “My job is to love you when you’re stressed.”

Balwani tried to separate himself from the Holmes figure throughout the process. This Wednesday, his defense argued before District Judge Ed Davila (the same one who convicted Holmes), that unlike the businesswoman, his client never sought to attract media attention. Prosecutors, however, objected to the negative influence that Balwani had within the company, whom they consider responsible for preparing the financial projections that gave investors false hope and in his prominent role in the agreement with the Walgreens chain, which he He himself boasted to those who bet on the company.

Judge Davila identified at least 12 investors, the main victims of the plot. The togado calculated that they lost at least 120 million dollars in a company that came to be valued at 9,000 million dollars. Balwani declined to give a final message to the court. He listened in silence to the condemnation. He muttered something to the relatives who were present, according to reporters in the room. There were no tears and no hugs. It’s the end of the Theranos scandal.

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