Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former business partner of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, will be sentenced on Wednesday for his role in the years-long fraud of the disgraced blood testing company.
US prosecutors have recommended that Balwani, 58, be sentenced to at least 15 years in prison after being found guilty in July of 12 counts of fraud.
It would be a harsher sentence than the one Holmes received last month.
Theranos, which promised its technology could quickly test a range of health conditions with just a prick of blood, raised hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and attracted high-level board members before collapse after a series of investigative reports that cast doubt on the company’s viability.
As president and chief operating officer of Theranos, Balwani directly supervised the company’s laboratories, where some of the most egregious instances of misconduct occurred. During Balwani’s trial, prosecutors called witnesses who said Theranos’ inaccurate blood tests caused real harm.
“Mr. Balwani knew that Theranos did not and would not generate meaningful revenue by being honest with people,” U.S. Attorney Jeff Schenk said. “So he chose another path.”
Text messages released during the trial confirmed Balwani’s outsized role.
“I am responsible for everything at Theranos,” Balwani wrote in a 2015 text message to Holmes. “All were my decisions too.”
Balwani’s defense team said the former software executive acted in good faith.
“He believed, and had every reason to believe, in Theranos’ world-class science team and the technology they developed,” attorney Jeffrey Coopersmith said.
Holmes and Balwani were also romantic partners for much of the company’s history, which the couple tried to keep a secret from employees. As she mounted her defense, Holmes attempted to portray herself as a victim of Balwani’s abuse. Balwani has denied these allegations.