Elizabeth Anne Holmes, the founder of Theranos, has lost her appeal to remain free and will soon begin her 11-year prison sentence for fraud. Her conviction on four counts of fraud is evidence of the extent of her deceit, which caused investors to lose billions of dollars.
Early Life and Rise to Prominence
Born on February 3, 1984, Elizabeth Anne Holmes was a former American biotechnology entrepreneur who is now also a convicted fraudster. While studying chemical engineering at Stanford, she worked as a student researcher and laboratory assistant in the School of Engineering. However, she later dropped out of the School of Engineering and used her tuition money to seed fund a consumer healthcare technology company called “Real-Time Cures”, which she rebranded as “Theranos.”
Holmes claimed that her fear of large needles was the inspiration behind starting her company. By 2014, at the age of 30, she had gained the trust of numerous patients and investors, and her company was valued at $9bn for supposedly bringing about a revolution in disease diagnosis. Her startup, Theranos, pledged that its Edison test could detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes quickly with just a few drops of blood, eliminating the need for needles. The board included prominent figures like Henry Kissinger and General James Mattis. Forbes magazine hailed Holmes as “the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire”, while Inc, another business magazine, called her the “next Steve Jobs” and featured her on its cover.
The Downfall of Theranos
However, in 2015, the tide turned against Theranos when a wave of investigative journalism and regulatory probes raised doubts about the company’s technology claims and whether Holmes had deceived investors and the government. Holmes was exposed as a fraud, and the technology she had promoted was shown to be non-functional. As a result, investors and patients lost vast amounts of money, and by 2018, Theranos had collapsed.
Conviction and Sentence
In January 2022, a California jury convicted Holmes of four counts of fraud, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The jury acquitted her on four other charges and could not reach a verdict on three more. Despite pleading not guilty to all charges, Holmes attempted to secure a new trial, but her requests were denied. She was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison, and her sentence is slated to begin by the end of April 2022.
Holmes, once the darling of Silicon Valley, has become one of the most notorious con artists of the century. She was able to deceive not only the general public but also big corporations like Walgreens and world leaders such as Henry Kissinger and Jim Mattis, who saw her as a hero. Born into a dynastically wealthy family, Holmes was able to gain people’s trust by framing Theranos as a “cause” for early disease detection and reduced mortality rates.
In the early days of Theranos, her pitch warmed the hearts of many. However, it is still unclear whether Holmes started out as a fraudster or if she chose that path when she was unable to create the technology she wanted. Either way, Holmes’ story serves as a classic illustration of how the desire to become a “hero” can steer a person towards a path of destruction. To this day, she has not confessed to her fraud, shown any remorse, apologized to patients, or made any efforts to make amends.