The feds slammed ex-Theranos chief operating officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani as a clear accomplice to former lover and disgraced company founder Elizabeth Holmes on Tuesday as the former executive’s fraud trial approached its conclusion.
In a lengthy closing argument, federal prosecutors reiterated their case that Balwani was an active participant, alongside Holmes, in a scheme to defraud investors and patients of the doomed medical technology startup.
“Mr. Balwani is not a victim, he is the perpetrator of the fraud,” prosecutor Jeffrey Schenk told jurors during the proceedings.
Aside from his leadership role at Theranos, Balwani, 57, was a key early investor in the startup. He has pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of fraud in connection to Theranos’ downfall and faces up to 20 years in prison.
The feds have argued that Balwani was fully aware of Holmes’ activities and was an active participant in efforts to mislead investors about the health of Theranos’ business. Prosecutors have pointed to Balwani’s oversight of Theranos’ laboratory as an indication of his direct involvement in the alleged fraud.
During the closing argument, Schenk ran through the testimony of all prosecution witnesses and reiterated that Balwani falsely claimed to investors that Theranos’ deal with retail giant would produce $1 billion in revenue by 2015, CNBC reported.
The feds’ closing argument included a 2015 text Balwani sent to Holmes.
“I am responsible for everything at Theranos,” Balwani said in the text to Holmes. “All have been my decisions too.”
Balwani’s defense team accused federal prosecutors of presenting an inconsistent case against their client. The defense has sought to portray Balwani as a hard-working executive and loyal investor who scrambled to keep Theranos afloat.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Coopersmith said Balwani’s genuine belief in Holmes’ plan for Theranos led him to invest $15 million in the startup. The defense also noted that Balwani never sold his stake in Theranos even as it surged to $500 million during the startup’s peak.
“Mr. Balwani put his heart and soul into Theranos,” Coopersmith told the jury.
Balwani and Holmes dated for several years and broke up in 2016 during Theranos’ implosion. Holmes’ legal team alleged that Balwani was abusive during the relationship – an allegation he has denied.
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Balwani’s legal team is expected to conclude its final argument on Wednesday. The prosecution will be given a rebuttal and then proceed to the jury to determine a verdict.
Theranos once drew a $9 billion valuation based on claims that it had developed proprietary technology capable of performing a number of medical tests with just a few drops of a patient’s blood.
But the company collapsed after damning news reports revealed its devices were inaccurate and could not perform many of the functions claimed.
In January, a jury found Holmes guilty of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. Holmes was acquitted on four other counts related to allegations that she defrauded patients and jurors could not reach a decision on three other fraud counts.