Sunny Balwani, Elizabeth Holmes' right-hand man at Theranos, has been sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison

Former Theranos president and COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Sunny Balwani, who had been Theranos' No. 2 person, was sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison on Wednesday.Stephen Lam/Reuters
  • Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, former president and COO of now-defunct blood-testing startup Theranos, has been sentenced to 12 years and 11 months in prison and 3 years of probation.

  • Balwani was convicted in July on all 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy brought against him.

  • His sentencing comes weeks after his former business partner and ex-girlfriend, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.

Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani has been sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison related to his role at infamous blood-testing startup Theranos — meaning he's likely to serve more time than his ex-lover Elizabeth Holmes, who last month got a sentence of just over 11 years for her role in the fraud.

The 58-year-old former Theranos president and COO was Holmes' right-hand man at the company for years. He was sentenced in federal court in California on Wednesday to 155 months in prison — or 12 years and 11 months — and has been ordered to self-surrender on March 15, 2023. Restitution will be decided at a later date.

Balwani declined to speak before the court at his sentencing, according to multiple news reports.

He was convicted in July on all 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy brought against him. During Balwani's monthslong trial, which featured many of the same witnesses as Holmes' trial, his defense used his position as No. 2 at Theranos to point the finger at Holmes for the company's failures.

His sentencing comes shortly after Holmes was sentenced to 11.25 years in prison late last month, with three years of supervised release. She was convicted on four of 11 counts of fraud and conspiracy in January and has been ordered to report to prison in April 2023.

Holmes and Balwani headed up Theranos for years. Before joining the company, Balwani had a stint at Microsoft and was president of a software development company that was ultimately acquired for $225 million. He and Holmes met in 2002 on a trip to Beijing through a summer Mandarin immersion program run by Stanford University. At the time, Holmes was 18 years old and Balwani was 37.

Elizabeth Holmes Sunny Balwani
Elizabeth Holmes, Balwani.Justin Silva/Getty, Stephen Lam/Reuters, Business Insider

Balwani joined Theranos in 2009, and he and Holmes dated for years while running the company but kept their relationship under wraps.

Theranos, worth $9 billion at its peak, claimed to be able to test for hundreds of diseases with one drop of blood and was hailed as a revolutionary force in the blood-testing industry before its fraud was exposed.

In 2015, The Wall Street Journal published a damning investigation revealing Theranos could only run a small fraction of the tests advertised and still yielded inaccurate results for those. The Journal also reported the company was secretly using competitors' machines already on the market, not its own devices.

Several federal agencies, including the FDA and the SEC, opened investigations into Theranos. Balwani left Theranos in 2016 amid the regulatory probes. In 2018, Balwani and Holmes were charged with "massive fraud" pertaining to their roles at the company. Holmes stepped down as CEO, and the company dissolved that year.

Last week, prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Balwani to 15 years in prison and order him to pay $800 million in restitution, the same request they'd made for Holmes. Balwani's attorneys contended that four to 10 months, preferably under house arrest, would be enough in his case. For each of the 12 counts, he faced up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a requirement to pay restitution to victims.

The Theranos saga has shone a light on Silicon Valley's "fake it till you make it" ethos and reinforced the importance of due diligence for investors, who poured $945 million into the company over its lifetime.

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