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Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani is sentenced to nearly 13 years for his role in Theranos fraud

Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, the former lover and business partner of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, arrives at federal court in San Jose, Calif. on Dec. 7, 2022.
Jeff Chiu
Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, the former lover and business partner of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, arrives at federal court in San Jose, Calif. on Dec. 7, 2022.

Updated December 7, 2022 at 7:42 PM ET

A federal judge in California sentenced former Theranos executive Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani to nearly 13 years in prison for his role in a multimillion-dollar fraud involving Theranos and its now-disgraced CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, who received an 11-year sentence in a separate trial.

In July, a jury found Balwani guilty on all 12 felony counts of defrauding Theranos investors and the patients that used the company's unreliable blood tests.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila's sentence for Balwani is less than federal prosecutors' demand for at least 15 years in prison, but far more than Balwani's attorney's request for a few months in prison, sentencing memos sent to the court last month show.

In comparison, Holmes was convicted of four wire-fraud related counts and sentenced to a little over 11 years in prison last month.

His attorneys said in court Wednesday, as well as in court documents, that Balwani should be judged differently from Holmes. Balwani invested nearly $5 million of his own money into Theranos and lost it all.

"Mr. Balwani is not the same as Elizabeth Holmes: he actually invested millions of dollars of his own money; he never sought fame or recognition; and he has a long history of quietly giving to those less fortunate (dating to well before his time at Theranos) without seeking recognition or benefit," Balwani's attorneys said in the memo to the judge. "All these attributes define who Mr. Balwani truly is." His attorneys repeated this sentiment in court.

Balwani was Theranos' second in command and Holmes' former romantic partner, though Holmes has claimed the older-Balwani sexually and emotionally abused her during their relationship. Balwani has denied the allegations through his attorney.

While running the company, the two claimed that Theranos provided never-before-seen technology that could scan patients for hundreds of illnesses and other conditions using just a few drops of blood. Holmes, a Stanford dropout, claimed her company had done what no other scientists did before, by using a proprietary blood-testing device.

Prosecutors maintained that those tests were manipulated, the executives lied about the capabilities of both the tests and the device, while bilking nearly $1 billon from investors based off of a lie.

Davila said in court that the financial statements drawn up by Balwani "weren't just projections, they were lies" and "a true flight from honest business practices."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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