Elizabeth Holmes Sentenced to 11 Years: What to Know About Theranos, 'The Dropout' & When She Goes to Prison

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Elizabeth Holmes has been sentenced to 11 years in prison. On Friday, the convicted Theranos founder and CEO was sentenced after being found guilty on fraud charges related to the fallout of her blood sampling company in January.

The media attention surrounding Holmes never ceases, especially after being the subject of a scripted, true-crime miniseries, The Dropout. Starring Amanda Seyfried, the eight-part drama chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of the deep-voiced, blonde entrepreneur’s quest to create a groundbreaking home device that people could use to test their blood for all types of illnesses.

Despite her attempts to revolutionize the healthcare industry, her Silicon Valley startup proved to be nothing more than a false promise that cost investors millions of dollars. Here's what to remember about Holmes, her conviction, and where she is now. 

Her Rise

As a 19-year-old sophomore at Stanford, Holmes decided to found a company, which would eventually become Theranos (derived from “therapy” and “diagnosis”). Her goal was to develop a device that would draw a substantial amount of testable blood from no more than a prick of a finger, with the hope that it could then be tested for all types of healthcare needs. 

Elizabeth Holmes
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A little over a year later, in 2004, the college dropout reportedly raised $6 million to fund her ambitions. And by 2010, Theranos had collected more than $92 million in venture capital, making Holmes a sudden star of Silicon Valley. She soon found herself on the covers of Fortune and Inc., with Forbesdubbing her the youngest self-made female billionaire in 2014 and Time magazine listing her as one of the “100 most influential people” a year later. 

In 2013, Theranos, which was now valued at $10 billion, partnered with Walgreens to launch in-store blood collection centers and two years later, the company established partnerships with Cleveland Clinic, Capital BlueCross, and AmeriHealth Caritas despite not having produced a functioning device.

Her Voice 

Having always looked up to Apple founder Steve Jobs, Holmes eventually and intentionally started copying his style, most notably by wearing his signature black turtleneck sweaters and always seen with a green smoothie in her hand. 

Around the time she reportedly started changing her look, Holmes also started speaking in a deep baritone, which was not the normal sound of her voice. This became the subject of controversy and ridicule over time, with Saturday Night Live star Chloe Fineman later performing a spot-on impression of her on Instagram.  

It is also a major part of the Hulu series, as audiences watch Seyfried transform into the ambitious founder. When it came to recreating it onscreen, Seyfried “had to work really hard to get there.” 

“I speak at such a higher level than she does naturally. So even though she was deepening her voice more and more to what we all understand is for power's sake, to make an impact, I still couldn’t get all the way there,” the actress said, revealing that she used different tricks with breathing and the shape of her mouth to eventually get there. 

Her Trial 

As Holmes’ fame continued to rise, she and Theranos started becoming the subject of more scrutiny. Several people in and outside the company started questioning the authenticity of the device that she had proclaimed to produce and the lab results of the samples collected from real-life patients. 

Elizabeth Holmes
Getty Images

Among them was entrepreneur Richard Fuisz, who filed patents related to Theranos’ blood-sampling technology before eventually teaming up with Stanford professor Phyllis Gardner to find out the truth behind Holmes’ company. The two later caught the attention of Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, who was the first to publicly expose the mounting fraud within Holmes’ company in 2016.  

By 2018, authorities got involved and charged Holmes and former company president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani on several counts of fraud. Several years later, in 2021, Holmes was finally taken to court. At the time, the New York Timesreported that she was “battling 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud over false claims she made about Theranos’ blood tests and business.” Despite maintaining her innocence, she was eventually found guilty on four counts of fraud in January 2022. 

The Stories

Not long after Theranos was exposed as a fraud, Holmes became the subject of several nonfiction accounts of her story, including Carreyrou’s popular 2018 book, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. The book served as the basis for the 2019 HBO documentary, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, directed by Alex Gibney. 

In an interview with ET, Inventor producer Jessie Deeter explained how deep Holmes’ manipulative world ran -- even after she got into trouble. “When I spoke with [Elizabeth] in the fall of 2017, the SEC hadn’t yet come out with all of those multitudes of allegations against her,” Deeter said. “So our team didn’t know about that. But she knew about that. She acted as if she was going to be moving forward [with our documentary].” 

“But we did have John Carreyrou’s excellent Wall Street Journal reporting, right? And so I said, ‘You know, Elizabeth, you’re being accused of fraud,’” Deeter continued. “And she got very angry with that word and said there was no fraud and she told me that she felt that she had been treated differently [than men] in Silicon Valley because she was a woman. She said, ‘You know, men are allowed to fail and men are allowed to make mistakes in this business and because I’m a woman, I was not.’” 

Around the same time as the documentary’s release, ABC News produced the investigative podcast The Dropout, hosted by Rebecca Jarvis. The series, which was revived during Holmes’ trial with new episodes, was adapted into a scripted Hulu series by executive producer and showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether. 

“There’s a lot of twists and turns in it, and it’s just full of surprises,” Meriwether said of the story about ambition gone wrong, adding that what happened to Holmes allowed them to have “interesting conversations around gender, around tech and business.” 

She added that she hopes The Dropout “offers insight into what was actually going on in those moments when those decisions were being made.” 

Where She Is Today

Since being indicted in 2018, Holmes has stepped down as CEO of Theranos. Despite the fallout she faced as the founder of the company, Holmes' personal life has fared better.  

After being released on bail ahead of her trial, Holmes became engaged to William Evans, an heir to the Evans Hotel Group. The couple got married in a private ceremony in 2019 and currently live in San Francisco, where Holmes gave birth to their first child, a boy, in July 2021. (Her pregnancy, along with the coronavirus pandemic, led to the delay in her trial.) She's now currently pregnant with her second child. 

Holmes was convicted of multiple charges of fraud in January. According to the New York Times, she faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each count she was found guilty on. It was also believed that her sentences would be served concurrently, with a total maximum of 20 years behind bars.

On Nov. 18, Holmes was sentenced to 11 years in prison and three months, though she is expected to appeal. She must report to prison on April 27, 2023. She is also required to serve three years of probation after her release.

According to CBS News, Holmes got emotional as she addressed the court during her sentencing.

"I regret my failings with every cell of my body," she said. "I am devastated by my failings. I have felt deep pain for what people went through, because I failed them."

Meanwhile, Sunny Balwani, her former boyfriend and president of Theranos, appeared in court in July and was found guilty of all 12 criminal charges brought against him. He's expected to be sentenced in December. 


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