Elizabeth Holmes, the world's youngest female self-made billionaire whose multi-billion dollar start-up Theranos looked set to revolutionize medical testing, goes on trial next month after it crashed and burned in a blaze of fraud claims.
Holmes stands accused of defrauding patients and investors in operating Theranos, a much-hyped company that promised to revolutionize laboratory science and attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of investment only to implode when journalists and government regulators closely examined the firm's exaggerated claims.
Who is Elizabeth Holmes?
Holmes, who grew up in Washington D.C., aspired to change the world from a young age. A top student throughout high school, Holmes dropped out of Stanford University at 19 to launch ambitious blood-testing startup Theranos in 2003, reported Time magazine.
Theranos set out to revolutionize the medical testing space, reaching a valuation of $10bn before the capabilities of its core technology were revealed to be largely fabricated.
By 2015, Forbes had named Holmes the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America on the basis of a $9-billion valuation of her company.
Holmes was lauded as a visionary, drawing comparisons with Apple founder Steve Jobs. But years of hype, and billions of dollars later, those promises unspooled; the miracle machines did not work, according to AFP.
Following revelations of potential fraud about Theranos's claims, Forbes had revised its published estimate of Holmes's net worth to zero, and Fortune had named her one of the "World's Most Disappointing Leaders"
Holmes Faces 9 Charges of Wire Fraud and 2 of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud
In March 2018 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Holmes and Theranos's former president, and Holmes' ex -boyfriend Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani with fraud by taking more than $700 million from investors while advertising a false product.
In June 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Holmes and Balwani on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for distributing blood tests with falsified results to consumers.
According to the indictment, the charges stem from allegations that both of them engaged in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud investors, and a separate scheme to defraud doctors and patients. Both schemes involved efforts to promote Theranos.
The indictment alleges that Holmes and Balwani defrauded doctors and patients (1) by making false claims concerning Theranos's ability to provide accurate, fast, reliable, and cheap blood tests and test results, and (2) by omitting information concerning the limits of and problems with Theranos's technologies, according to United States Department of Justice.
Both Holmes and Balwani have pleaded not guilty. Holmes' long delayed trial is expected to begin on August 31 in San Jose, California. Balwani will be tried separately next year. If found guilty, the pair face prison time, possible fines and compensation payments to victims.
Is Holmes Set to Accuse Balwani of Sexual Abuse?
Holmes plans to defend herself at her federal fraud trial starting next week by arguing that her former boyfriend Balwani emotionally and sexually abused her, impairing her state of mind at the time of the alleged crimes, according to newly unsealed legal filings in her case, reported National Public Radio.
Holmes is preparing to argue that Balwani controlled, manipulated and abused her, reports say.
In particular, Holmes is set to describe at trial how Balwani controlled how she ate, how she dressed and with whom she spoke. Holmes intends to say that Balwani monitored her calls, text messages and emails and that he was physically violent, throwing "hard, sharp objects" at her, according to NPR.