‘How is that punishment?’ Fury of British Theranos whistleblower’s widow as fallen Silicon Valley tycoon faces a lenient jail term after her scientist husband killed himself when he was fired for questioning if ‘miracle’ blood test could ever work
- Elizabeth Holmes, 37, was convicted on four counts of fraud in court on Monday
- She had claimed to have developed a ‘miracle’ automated blood-testing device
- Holmes named biochemist Dr Ian Gibbons the company’s lead scientist in 2005
- But Gibbons realised there was no such wonder cure and overdosed in May 2013
- She faces over 20 years in jail though legal experts say she could get lesser term
- Dr Gibbons’ widow Rochelle said she was concerned Holmes could be spared jail
The widow of a biochemist who was driven to suicide when he feared Elizabeth Holmes was going to fire him has said she is worried the Silicon Valley villain could be spared jail.
Rochelle Gibbons said she was concerned Holmes, 37, could be allowed to serve her jail term under house arrest following her conviction on four fraud charges on Monday.
‘She lives in a £100million estate. How is that punishment?’, Mrs Gibbons told The Times. ‘I’m hoping that she gets ten years [in prison] or more than that.’
Dr Ian Gibbons, a Cambridge-educated British biochemist who became Theranos chief scientist in 2005, took a fatal overdose in 2013 after becoming convinced that Holmes would sack him because he challenged her grandiose claims about her blood-testing machine.
On Monday, Holmes was convicted on four counts of wires fraud after a jury in San Jose found that she deceived investors into sinking more than $945 million into her faulty blood testing machine.
Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years – though she is expected to serve each count concurrently – but legal experts have indicated she could receive a more lenient term.
If sent to jail, Holmes would be the most notable female executive to serve time since Martha Stewart did in 2004 after lying to investigators about a stock sale. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Asked if she felt justice had been served by the conviction, Mrs Gibbons said: ‘It’s been served to the extent that it can be served… I’m still a widow. Ian is still dead. I don’t know how that’s justice, but I don’t know how you get justice for that.’
The widow of a biochemist who was driven to suicide when he feared Elizabeth Holmes (pictured) was going to fire him has said she is worried the Silicon Valley villain could be spared jail
Rochelle Gibbons said she was concerned Holmes, 37, could be allowed to serve her jail term under house arrest following her conviction on four fraud charges on Monday
Dr Ian Gibbons, a Cambridge-educated British biochemist who became Theranos chief scientist in 2005, took a fatal overdose in 2013 after becoming convinced that Holmes would sack him because he challenged her grandiose claims about her blood-testing machine
The main house at Green Gables is pictured. Holmes and her husband are believed to have been renting one of the smaller properties on the grounds, of which there are six
Since March, Holmes and her husband had been living quietly on the Green Gables Estate in Silicon Valley, presumably renting one of the six smaller properties dotted around the vast grounds that recently went on sale for $135million
Since March, Holmes and her husband Evans had been living quietly on the 75-acre Green Gables Estate in Silicon Valley, presumably renting one of the six smaller properties dotted around the vast grounds.
Following the conviction, Mrs Gibbons told the Mail: ‘Ian would be very happy. He was a very kind, tolerant person but he hated her so much — she was a sociopath, a narcissist, a bully and a liar.
‘When he realised she was pushing things on patients that were fraudulent, it destroyed him.’
Mrs Gibbons knew Holmes in the early years of Theranos before she reinvented herself to appeal to would-be Silicon Valley investors – losing weight, dyeing her mousy brown hair blonde, cultivating a lower male-like voice, favouring black turtle necks as Jobs did, and developing a far more flamboyant personality.
While Rochelle Gibbons said she believes Holmes genuinely believed in her miracle product ‘for a very brief time’, she fatally came to fall her own hype.
‘She couldn’t escape her persona as a wunderkind and got sucked into it,’ she said.
Gibbons was the first experienced scientist hired by Theranos and an expert in the field of blood testing, having patented a mechanism for mixing and diluting blood that was a crucial part of the company’s technology.
He began working at Theranos in 2005, and the Cambridge-educated biochemist shared the rights to a number of patents with Holmes.
It is believed by most people that it was Gibbons who did all the work to obtain these patents, to which Holmes would simply attach her name.
Elizabeth Holmes is seen leaving court on Monday, having been found guilty on four counts
Gibbons began to notice over time however that Edison, the machine that Holmes had claimed would revolutionise the medical industry, did not work.
That situation was further complicated by Holmes’ business model, which forced each department in her company to operate independently and not share any information.
Gibbons would still spend time with the young scientists though, helping them work on and design their experiments.
Former co-workers describe him as a ‘wealth of knowledge’, but by 2012 he had been ostracised to the point that he did not even have an office at the company headquarters.
‘Ian got into really bad shape with Sonny and Elizabeth, because there are so many things wrong with that technology,’ his wife Rochelle explained in an HBO documentary aired in 2019.
‘And isn’t that the point of someone like that being there, to tell them why it isn’t going to work,’ she added.
In early 2013, Theranos was hit with a patent lawsuit, and did everything in its power to keep Gibbons from testifying.
The belief at the time was that this was because he might reveal that the Edison did not function, thus shattering the groundwork on which the $9 billion company had been built.
Gibbons learnt he was to be disposed, and began drinking heavily while becoming increasingly depressed, and soon he was working from home.
According to a court filing, Holmes and Sunny Balwani would lead profane chants in company meetings against rival companies and detractors
Holmes is seen in the lab in a grab from the HBO documentary The inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
A former Theranos employee said that he had been told Gibbons was asked to stay home by Holmes due to the fact that he continually pointed out things that were not working with the company’s inventions.
‘Ian asked me if I thought he was going to be fired. And I told him yes, unfortunately,’ said Rochelle. ‘And that was the night he killed himself.’
She went to explain how ‘distraught’ her husband was at the time about the patent case and his fears over what he was going to do with the rest of his life once he was fired from the company where he had spent the past eight years of his life.
Rochelle was then asked how the company responded to her husband’s suicide.
‘I don’t know because they never spoke to me except to tell me to return his confidential stuff,’ said Rochelle. ‘I took the documents that he had left at home and brought them to the front desk.’
When asked if she has ever once heard from Holmes in the years since her husband took his life, Rochelle said: ‘No.’
Holmes, who modelled herself on Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, won widespread acclaim – including from Harvard University and Time magazine – for a phoney technology which she claimed would revolutionise blood-testing methods by using miraculously tiny volumes of blood, such as from a finger prick.
Theranos raised just shy of a billion dollars from venture capitalist titans including Tim Draper, Donald Lucas and Dixon Doll; wealthy heirs to the founders of Amway, Walmart and Cox Communications; and heavyweights of tech and media such as Larry Ellison and Rupert Murdoch.
Holmes, who modelled herself on Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, won widespread acclaim for a phoney technology which she claimed would revolutionise blood-testing methods
In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden heralded Theranos as ‘a laboratory of the future. You can see what innovation is all about just walking through this facility’
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