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After Elizabeth Holmes' skyrocketed to the top of Silicon Valley back in the 2010s, the now 38-year-old founder of Theranos, a now defunct blood-testing company, and her business partner and eventual boyfriend, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, 57, are both facing jail time for their company-related crimes. In 2022, Sunny was found guilty of 12 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud with Theranos investors, doctors, and patients, while Elizabeth was also found guilty that same year on many of the same charges, according to NBC Bay Area, NBC, and The Guardian.
Elizabeth was finally sentenced in November of 2022, and is now set to spend 11 years and three months in prison following the birth of her second child. Sunny's fate has yet to be announced, as he faces his final sentencing hearing on Dec. 8.
But, how exactly did Elizabeth and Sunny get to this point? And perhaps more interestingly, how did they first connect, and why did they break up? Here's everything you need to know about their rocky relationship:
Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani met in 2002.
Elizabeth and Sunny met 20 years ago, back in 2002. They first crossed paths in Beijing, China, while on a language-immersion trip with Stanford University, according to Sunny's divorce filings, per PopSugar. At the time, Elizabeth was an 18-year-old senior in high school and Sunny was a 37-year-old student pursuing his MBA at the University of California, Berkeley, according to Refinery29.
They started dating in 2004.
Some reports claim that the two didn't start dating until Elizabeth dropped out of college two years later. By then, Elizabeth was trying to collect enough seed money to get Theranos off of the ground.
By 2005, the pair were living together.
Their relationship moved fast. The two started living together in 2005, according to the book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.
As Theranos started to grow, Elizabeth and Sunny never told investors that they were dating. At the time, Sunny was focused on his own project—he founded a company that sold for millions. He walked away with $40 million for himself, although he didn't join Theranos until later.
In 2009, Sunny was hired to work at Theranos with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth brought Sunny to Theranos four years after the two moved in together. He was promoted from vice president to Chief Operating Officer. But Theranos employees had concerns about his role at the company.
Carreyrou said that while speaking with a source, it was “very clear to me that they were running this thing as a partnership, and that Sunny was kind of the enforcer and Holmes' older boyfriend.” The insider “painted the portrait of this fraud being run by a couple," he told Insider.
On top of that, Sunny wasn't exactly qualified to work at a blood-testing company. His undergraduate degree was in computer science, and he didn't have a background in biology or medicine. Elizabeth put Sunny in charge of the office's daily operations, where he berated many employees.
"A lot of my ex-employee sources, who for the first year was speaking to me on the background, were traumatized by what they experienced at Theranos," Carreyrou said. "It was like a mind-warping sort of experience," he added.
And, the pair continued to keep their relationship a secret. While talking with Henry Kissinger, who had been a board member at Theranos, Carreyrou said "it instantly became clear to me that she was lying to her board about this romantic relationship that she was having with the number two of the company." Kissinger even went so far as to try and set Elizabeth up on dates, not knowing she was with Sunny.
Elizabeth and Sunny broke up in 2016.
Between April and May 2016, Sunny said he was retiring and leaving Theranos (although others report he was fired from the company). At this point, the company was beginning to unravel. The FBI, FDA, and CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) were investigating Theranos and Elizabeth.
Soon after, CMS inspected Theranos' laboratory in Newark, California, per Refinery29. They then banned Sunny from owning or operating a blood laboratory ever again.
In 2018, the duo's legal issues started.
Two years later, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed four claims against Sunny for violating U.S. Securities Act. He had lied to investors and the public on purpose to get more funding for Theranos.
Then, in June 2018, Elizabeth and Sunny were indicted by a federal jury on two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for knowingly distributing blood tests with falsified results and nine counts of wire fraud.
At the time, Sunny's lawyer Jeffrey Coopersmith said "Mr. Balwani committed no crimes. He did not defraud Theranos investors, who were among the most sophisticated in the world. He did not defraud consumers, but instead worked tirelessly to empower them with access to their own health information. Mr. Balwani is innocent, and looks forward to clearing his name at trial," according to Vanity Fair.
At her trial in 2021, Elizabeth accused Sunny of abuse.
During Elizabeth's own trial, she accused Sunny of physically and psychologically abusing her while they were dating. She said Sunny would criticize her business skills and told her she “came across as a little girl,” per CNBC.
She also said Sunny separated her from her family. “I saw them less than I’d ever seen them before and I spoke to them less than I had ever spoke to them before,” Elizabeth said. “Because I was trying to focus all of my time on the company. Sunny would get very upset if I was with my family. He said it was a distraction to the business.”
Elizabeth is headed to prison for 11 years and three months.
At her Nov. 17 sentencing, a judge said Elizabeth would spend 11 years and three months in prison after her second baby is born (she was pregnant again during her sentencing hearing).
Sunny's sentencing is set for Dec. 8.
There's no official announcement yet, so stay tuned for more information on the outcome of Sunny's sentencing and what his jail time might look like.
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