Theranos' Sunny Balwani Sentenced To Almost 13 Years In Prison

Prosecutors had asked for 15 years behind bars for Balwani, the former romantic partner of Elizabeth Holmes.

Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who served as the president and chief operating officer of ill-fated blood-testing company Theranos, was sentenced to 12 years and 11 months in prison Wednesday for his role defrauding patients and investors.

Balwani is the most well-known figure associated with Theranos after founder Elizabeth Holmes, who was sentenced last month to more than 11 years in prison for swindling investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The two were engaged in a clandestine romantic relationship for more than a decade until 2016, right around when the company began collapsing under the weight of their false promises about Theranos’ technology.

Balwani received the sentence from U.S. District Judge Edward Davila, who sits on the federal court in the Northern District of California and also oversaw Holmes’ trial and sentencing. Balwani must surrender on March 15.

Former Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani goes through a security checkpoint during his first appearance in federal court for this case.
Former Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani goes through a security checkpoint during his first appearance in federal court for this case.
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

He and Holmes were tried in separate cases over the same charges earlier this year. While Holmes was found guilty only on fraud charges involving investors, a jury found Balwani guilty of defrauding both investors and patients. In both cases, prosecutors for the Justice Department asked for 15-year sentences ― five years less than the maximum they could serve.

Davila listened to arguments from Balwani’s defense and the prosecution Wednesday before handing down the sentence. He firmly pushed back on the defense’s argument that Balwani was simply following Holmes’ orders and noted that Balwani hired his own dermatologist to run Theranos’ lab.

Balwani declined the opportunity to speak before the sentencing.

Balwani’s attorneys argued throughout his three-month trial, which concluded in July, that Holmes misled him on the company’s ability to test tiny drops of blood for a range of diseases and that he acted in good faith when he sought out investor money. His lawyers referenced this again Wednesday, noting that he’d invested millions from his own fortune into Theranos.

“He believed, and had every reason to believe, in the world-class scientific team at Theranos and the technology they developed,” his lawyer, Jeffrey Coopersmith, said during closing arguments.

But the prosecution’s explanation that Balwani was simply lying about the technology to bring in more revenue was more convincing to jurors, who found him guilty on all charges.

Unlike Holmes, Balwani did not take the stand to testify during his trial.

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