She was a billionaire aged 30 and hailed “the next Steve Jobs” for her company which promised to diagnose hundreds of conditions such as cancer and diabetes with just a few drops of blood.
But now disgraced Elizabeth Holmes is facing jail after it emerged her blood testing machines never actually worked.
A court in California has convicted her on four counts of fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, after she duped investors into backing her.
Prosecutors said Holmes, 37, knowingly lied about technology she said could detect diseases with just a few finger pricks of blood.
Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos, then called Real-Time Cures, in 2003 when she was just 19 after dropping out of the elite Stanford University in the US.
She claimed a machine known as the Edison could detect a range of diseases with just a few drops of blood. Holmes said her fear of needles had inspired her to create tests that could be performed using only a small amount of blood.
Investors ploughed billions into the company with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch sinking $125million.
By 2015, Holmes – with her trademark black eyeliner, bleached blonde hair and bright red lipstick – was worth an estimated £3.3billion with Theranos valued at £6.5billion.
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But the company began to unravel when investigations revealed their tests simply did not work. In 2018, Holmes was charged with 11 counts of fraud, leading to the collapse of Theranos. This week she was convicted of four.
At the trial one patient testified a blood test revealed they were miscarrying when they were pregnant while another said they were given false-positive results for HIV.
Employees have also told how she put on a deep voice to sound more authoritative, idolised Steve Jobs and wore black polo necks and drank green juices just like him and bought a Siberian husky dog which she allowed to relieve itself in the office and also insisted was a wolf.
Five other famous fraudsters…
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In 1925 after reading about the expense involved in the upkeep of the Eiffel Tower, Victor Lustig saw his opportunity. He posed as a French government official and “sold” it to businessman Andre Poisson for 250,000 francs. Poisson was too embarrassed to go to the police so Lustig sold it again, to a scrap metal dealer. This time the man did go to the police.
It later emerged Lustig had 10 instructions for conmen which included “Wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with them,” and “Never get drunk.”
Bridge of lies
One of history’s most talented conmen, George C Parker made a living selling New York landmarks to tourists using convincing forged documents. He sold the Brooklyn Bridge twice a week for years, telling his victims they could charge people to cross the bridge. Police often had to remove people setting up their own toll booths. In 1928, he was jailed for life for fraud.
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Prince of Poyais
In the early 19th century, Scotsman Gregor MacGregor, a former general in the British Army, claimed to be a cazique – a prince, of Poyais, a mythical Central American gold-laden paradise. He published fake sketches, lied in interviews and distributed pamphlets which he wrote under a false name.
Investors gave him the equivalent of £3.6 billion and the first 250 settlers sailed. Finding a jungle wasteland, two-thirds starved to death. Five following ships were intercepted by the British Navy, and MacGregor escaped to France to start the scam again.
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High society hoaxer
Russian-born imposter Anna Sorokin moved to New York in 2013 and posed as a super-rich German socialite to lead an extraordinary life of luxury.
As billionaire’s daughter Anna Delvey, she claimed to have a $60million trust fund, partied with millionaires and stars including Macaulay Culkin and stayed in five-star hotels, tipping staff with hundred-dollar bills.
But she funded her lifestyle by tricking money from businesses and rich pals. In 2017, she was arrested for leaving thousands of dollars of unpaid bills at two swanky New York hotels.
At her 2019 trial she was found guilty of theft of services and grand larceny, having scammed more than £145,000 from banks and luxury hotels. She was released from prison in the US last year and her story is the subject of an upcoming Netflix show.
Playing with Fyre
Advertised by famous faces including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, 2017’s Fyre Festival was billed as the world’s most glamorous party.
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Tickets cost up to £75,000 with guests promised luxury accommodation and “the best in food, art, music and adventure” on a Bahamas island.
But they turned up to cramped tents on a concrete building site and were left squabbling over soggy mattresses and manky cheese sandwiches.
While tickets had been sold, no one had actually organised the festival – no stars had been booked or staff and marquees hired.
Founder and businessman Billy McFarland was jailed for six years over the fiasco.
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