Tech exec, ex-boyfriend of Elizabeth Holmes found guilty on 12 counts of fraud for conning Theranos investors

Technology executive Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani has been found guilty of 12 counts of fraud for his role in the deception of investors and patients as the lynchpin for the blood-testing company Theranos.

A San Jose, Calif. jury found Balwani guilty of 10 counts of federal wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud after weeks of deliberations following a three-month trial. Balwani, 57, was the fountainhead of the technology company and one-time romantic partner with Elizabeth Holmes who dropped out of Stanford University and founded the company when she was 19, the Daily Mail reported.

Specifically, the charges for which Balwani was convicted are:

  • One count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud against Theranos investors
  • One count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud against blood-testing patients
  • Six counts of wire fraud against Theranos investors
  • Four counts of wire fraud against blood-testing patients

(Video: NBC Bay Area/YouTube

“Balwani is not a victim,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Schenk said in his closing argument. “He is a perpetrator of the fraud. Mr. Balwani knows that the biggest threat to fraud is the truth.”

Each count of fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison while the two counts of conspiracy carry a maximum of five years apiece. Holmes was found guilty in a separate trial on four counts of fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison herself. Balwani wooed the young Holmes when she was 18 and helped launch Theranos in 2003, ultimately naming himself COO in 2010 after working behind the scenes prior to that point.

The couple was the subject of a Hulu series called “The Dropout” in which the misdeeds of the oleaginous couple are exposed. The dramatization features Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes and Naveen Andrews as Balwani.

Holmes claimed that her cleverly-named “Edison Device” was a mini-lab that could be kept in the home and was capable of processing over 240 tests ranging from cholesterol to any number of infectious diseases.

In 2015, however, trouble in paradise was brewing as the company came under scrutiny following an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association which stated that no peer-reviewed material existed in support of the company’s revolutionary claims. In an attempt to bolster the credibility of Theranos, Holmes invited then-Vice President Joe Biden to tour their facility. A fake lab was constructed for this purpose, and knowing what the world knows of Joe Biden, a bigger sucker they could not find.

Nearly 600 pages of texts were presented as evidence in Balwani’s trial, including the details of lavish trips the couple planned to take, as well as effusive and syrupy affirmations of the couple’s apparent infatuation with each other.

Pour some sugar on these, for example:

Holmes wrote, “Madly in love with you and your strength.”

“Infinite love for you in every breath,” Balwani wrote in April 2016.

“You are breeze in desert for me. My water. And Ocean,” read another message from Holmes to Balwani.

Holmes’ success evidently hinged on her ability to captivate powerful men to join in her endeavors. Sitting on her Board of Directors were two former Secretaries of State, two Secretaries of Defense, and the Former CEO of Wells Fargo, the Mail reported. “You have to remember, she has a sort of ethereal quality. She is like a member of a monastic order,” said one the members of the now-defunct board.

Holmes and Balwani took high-profile investors for $900 million in the end. Some of the biggest names included the founders of Walmart, who gave $150 million; Rupert Murdoch, who invested $125 million; and the Devos family, who invested $100 million. Additionally, the Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, Robert Kraft and the Oppenheimer family who once owned De Beers diamonds were all taken to the cleaners.

Sentencing for Holmes is set for September to be followed by Balwani’s sentencing in November, with the obligatory appeals coming forth in the meantime.

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