Surprise Pregnancy Adds Another Delay in Criminal Trial of Theranos Founder

Elizabeth Holmes revealed her pregnancy to prosecutors, requesting an additional six-week delay to a trial on fraud charges that was initially supposed to begin in 2020. 

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, speaks at the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco on Nov. 2, 2015. On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against Holmes and her company for defrauding investors. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

(CN) — The latest twist in the yearslong effort to bring embattled Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to trial on fraud charges — her pregnancy — left Justice Department attorneys complaining about being blindsided.

U.S. Attorney Robert Leach said the pregnancy news came out of nowhere. 

“We are frustrated and disappointed to learn about this now,” he said during a remote hearing Wednesday.

Leach said the government learned of the news March 2, when Holmes was five months pregnant. She is due to give birth in July, meaning her tentative trial date will be pushed back to the late summer. 

Initially, prosecutors planned to try Holmes last summer until the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans. 

Holmes’ attorney Kevin Downey said the repeated delays are out of his client’s control and do not mean she is procrastinating. 

“She is eager to contest these charges,” Downey said Wednesday, adding the delay is necessary to safeguard her health. 

“Based on the medical advice we’ve gotten, setting this schedule at a pace that would be faster than six weeks post-birth would be aggressive and not recommended,” Downey said. 

Holmes faces multiple fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from her time as CEO of Theranos, a now-defunct blood-testing company that claimed to be able to diagnose various disorders through a technology that required a simple pinprick.

Federal prosecutors accuse Holmes and her right-hand man, Ramesh Balwani, of engaging in multiple acts of fraud by misleading investors and customers regarding the effectiveness of the blood-testing technology.

Holmes’ exploits and fall from grace — Forbes recognized her as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire in 2014 — have fascinated the general public and provided enough fodder for a book, podcast series and two competing documentaries.

The pair face two charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine separate counts of wire fraud that could carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and $2.7 million in fines. 

Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 and soon attracted a who’s who of investors and backers. George Schultz, Henry Kissinger and Jim Mattis served on the company’s board. 

The health technology entrepreneur’s empire began to unravel in 2016 after John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal wrote the first of several articles raising doubt as to the validity of Theranos’ blood testing technology. 

Holmes, Balwani and others associated with the company proclaimed their blood tests could give reliable results to customers based on a prick of a finger. In fact, the test could only produce results related to a narrow range of health metrics and suffered from reliability issues. 

When Carreyrou wrote his first article in October 2015, Holmes was worth an estimated $4.5 billion. By June 2016, she was virtually bankrupt.

The company has since been liquidated. 

Prosecutors say Holmes and Balwani, who were previously in a romantic relationship, spent years lying about the capability of their blood testing technology, defrauding investors, board members and corporate partners like Safeway, Walgreens and the Cleveland Clinic.

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