Ex-Theranos executive Sunny Balwani sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison

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Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former business partner of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, was sentenced to nearly 13 years in federal prison and three years of probation Wednesday for his role in the disgraced blood-test company’s years of fraud.

It’s a longer sentence than what Holmes got last month. Balwani was convicted in July on 12 counts of fraud — eight more than Holmes was.

Balwani must surrender by March 15, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila said after he announced the sentence in San Jose, California.

Theranos, which promised that its technology could quickly test for a variety of health conditions with just a pinprick of blood, raised hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and attracted high-profile board members before it collapsed after a series of investigative reports cast doubt on its viability.

As Theranos’ president and chief operating officer, Balwani had direct oversight over the company’s labs, where some of the most egregious misconduct occurred, prosecutors said. At his trial, prosecutors called witnesses who said Theranos’ inaccurate blood tests caused real-world harm.

“Mr. Balwani knew that Theranos was not generating, and would not generate, any meaningful revenue by being honest with people,” U.S. Attorney Jeff Schenk said. “So he chose a different path.”

Text messages released during the trial confirmed Balwani’s outsize role.

“I am responsible for everything at Theranos,” Balwani wrote in a 2015 text message to Holmes. “All have been my decisions too.”

Balwani’s defense team said he had acted in good faith.

“He believed, and had every reason to believe, in the world-class scientific team at Theranos 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 pair tried to keep secret from employees. As she mounted her defense, Holmes tried to portray herself as a victim of Balwani’s abuse. Balwani has denied the claims.

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