Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of three counts of criminal wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Monday.
She was found guilty of illegally fleecing investors out of millions of dollars via her blood diagnostics startup, Theranos.
The jury deadlocked on three counts of wire fraud, and she was found not guilty on four counts of defrauding patients.
The verdict was red by the Jurors at the San Jose’s federal district court on Monday while Holmes, 37, was flanked by her defense attorneys.
After the verdicts were read, Holmes showed no sign of emotion but she embraced her family members before exiting the courtroom.
The Jury just found Holmes guilt on three of nine counts of wire fraud and one of two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud meaning Holmes could potentially serve a 20-years term in prison.
“The guilty verdicts, in this case, reflect Ms. Holmes’ culpability in this large-scale investor fraud, and she must now face sentencing for her crimes,” a spokesman for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Stephanie Hinds told reporters outside the courthouse.
However, she can still appeal the judge’s decision even though neither she nor her attorneys confirmed this.
Prosecutors said that the conspiracy to commit wire fraud was formed by an agreement between Holmes and her co-defendant Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani in order to induce investors to back Theranos as they both made “numerous misrepresentations to potential investors about Theranos’ financial condition and its future prospects.”
Also, note that Balwani was the long-time boyfriend of Elizabeth Holmes and he served as a COO at Theranos
The case was presided by Judge Edward Davila and he’s expected to hand down a sentence at a later date.
According to California law, felony convictions must be scheduled for sentencing within 20 days of a guilty verdict even though there are some exceptions to this rule.
And there are other reasons that could impact the sentencing date and one of them is the government’s decision on whether to retry Holmes.
Among the jury’s four guilty verdicts were three based on specific investments made by wire transfers in 2014:
- A US$38.3 million investment by renown healthcare investor Brian Grossman
- Then about US$100 million investment by former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
- Another US$6 million investment by prominent real estate lawyer Daniel Mosley.
One of the government’s attorneys asked for Holmes’ signature bond to be modified to a secured bond, which would require Holmes to provide collateral while she awaits the government’s decision on retrying the three counts on which the jury returned no verdict.
This is a huge story and one of the most closely watched in Silicon Valley history is said to have established a new bar for the extent to which startup ventures and founders who overhype the capacity of their products and services can steer clear of the U.S. Justice Department’s scrutiny.
Representations made by startup founders like Holmes have not always attracted significant pressure from federal prosecutors, partially due to the typical agreements that multi-millionaire and billionaire investors sign before they make their investments, attesting to their understanding of the highly speculative nature of such wagers.
In Holmes’ case, she was accused and then acquitted of defrauding customers who paid her company’s commercialized blood-testing service through its partnership with Walgreens.
From the Juror’s perspective, customers who spent their money on Theranos’ services but got horrible results weren’t necessarily considered “duped” because the blood-testing startup’s tests were never reliable to start with.
Six of the wire fraud charges (counts 3 -8) in the indictment against Holmes were based on multi-million dollar investments in her company all of which were made between the years 2013 and 2014.
Then there were two wire fraud charges (counts 10 & 11) which were based on payments made by Theranos customers in exchange for blood services, while an additional charge (counts 12) pointed to a money transfer tied to the company’s advertisements of its services.
Each of two conspiracy charges separately alleged that between approximately 2010 and approximately 2015, Holmes conspired with Balwani to defraud investors and patients.
Balwani is facing a separate trial, scheduled to begin next year.
The decision made was based on the testimony of over 30 witnesses including Holmes herself who took a stand in her own defense and then arguments from each party’s lawyers and over 900 exhibits introduced over the trial’s 15 weeks.
“Elizabeth Holmes was building a business and not a criminal enterprise,” Holmes’ attorney Kevin Downey told the jury in closing arguments.
In rebuttal, U.S. Assistant Attorney John Bostic painted a starkly different picture, telling jurors, “The disease that plagued Theranos was not a lack of effort, it was a lack of honesty.”