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Sunny Balwani, Elizabeth Holmes’ former partner, sentenced in Theranos fraud case

(NEW YORK) — Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former romantic partner of Elizabeth Holmes and president of disgraced blood testing company Theranos, was sentenced Wednesday to 155 months, or nearly 13 years, in prison.

The sentencing in federal court comes less than three weeks after Holmes, the founder of Theranos, received 135 months, or 11 1/4 years, in prison for defrauding investors.

Balwani, 57, was convicted in July on 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy after persuading investors and patients to trust the company’s faulty blood testing devices. In addition to 155 months in prison, Balwani was ordered to serve three years of probation after the sentence. Restitution will be decided at a later date. He has been ordered to report to prison on March 15, 2023.

Balwani faced a sentence of 20 years for each of the 12 counts, but legal experts expect the sentences to be served at the same time, giving him a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Prosecutors filed a legal memorandum last week arguing that the severity of the fraud and the need to “promote respect for the law” warrant a prison term of 15 years for Balwani.

Balwani’s lawyers, meanwhile, said their client should not receive any jail time, arguing instead that probation would prove sufficient. In a court filing, the lawyers noted Balwani’s financial losses on Theranos and contrasted Balwani’s low public profile with Holmes, who drew “fame and media attention.”

Last month, Balwani received a three-week delay in sentencing to give probation officers additional time to offer a recommended punishment. Balwani had asked for a sentencing date of Jan. 23, 2023, due to an undisclosed health problem and to make sure family members could attend the hearing.

Balwani, who also served as chief operating officer at Theranos, was convicted in July after a 13-week trial that detailed his trajectory from a wealthy software engineer who formed a romantic relationship with Holmes to a second-in-command figure at Theranos who invested millions in the startup and oversaw day-to-day operations.

Theranos sought to revolutionize the medical testing industry with a product that could assess an array of potential health issues with just a few drops of blood. The company, once valued at $9 billion, became an emblem of Silicon Valley malfeasance after it came to light that Balwani and Holmes misled investors even as the product failed to work.

During her trial, Holmes alleged that Balwani psychologically and physically abused her over the course of their romantic relationship — accusations that he forcefully denied.

Lawyers for Balwani depicted Theranos as a venture launched and shaped by Holmes. “Sunny Balwani did not start Theranos, he did not control Theranos, he did not have final decision-making authority at Theranos,” said Balwani’s attorney, Stephen Cazares.

Ultimately, however, a jury found him guilty of misleading investors and patients as the company raised more than a billion dollars and formed partnerships with drugstore giants Walgreens and Safeway.

Federal prosecutors indicted Balwani and Holmes in 2018, the same year Holmes agreed to forfeit control of Theranos. Their trials were severed in 2021.

The sentence on Wednesday was handed down by Judge Edward J. Davila at a federal courthouse in San Jose, California. Holmes received her sentence from Davila at the same courthouse on Nov. 18.

In addition to 135 months in prison, Holmes was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after the sentence. She has been ordered to report to prison on April 27, 2023.

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