The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Elizabeth Holmes tried to flee U.S. after conviction, prosecutors allege

Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes goes through security as she arrives at federal court in San Jose on Sept. 1, 2022. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
4 min

Elizabeth Holmes, the former Theranos CEO, booked a one-way plane ticket to Mexico that was scheduled to depart just weeks after she was convicted of fraud in January 2022, a recent court filing says. In the document, filed Thursday, prosecutors describe the booking as an “attempt to flee the country.”

Government attorneys learned of the flight three days before its Jan. 26, 2022, departure, and alerted Holmes’s legal team by email. They replied that she had booked the flight before the verdict hoping to attend a wedding in Mexico. Holmes canceled the ticket, “but it is difficult to know with certainty what Defendant would have done had the government not intervened,” the prosecutors wrote.

The filing was in response to a motion for release pending appeal made by Holmes, 38, that prosecutor documents said would effectively loosen restrictions placed on her region of travel. To do so, Holmes would have to prove that she is not a flight risk, a requirement prosecutors say she failed to meet.

In a document filed on Sunday, Holmes’s attorneys denied that she attempted to flee and said the prosecutors “recklessly and incorrectly accuse Ms. Holmes and her partner of attempted flight and present incomplete and provably inaccurate statements of fact in support of that accusation.”

In November, Holmes was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after her Jan. 3, 2022, conviction on four counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She was given a self-surrender date of April 27 after the court found out she was pregnant with her second child.

Holmes posted a $500,000 bond secured by her parents’ home, her motion said, and has been living on an estate in California with a reported monthly upkeep of more than $13,000, according to the prosecutors’ filing. In the most recent filing, Holmes’s attorneys say she left the property in October.

Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to more than 11 years in prison

She justified her request for the expanded travel based on her partner’s work commitments, and also recorded his salary as $0 despite asserting “that her partner pays the monthly bills rather than her,” the prosecutors’ document said.

Her attorneys argued in their motion that Holmes “has strong ties to her partner and family, including her son and soon-to-be-born child, that incentivize her to comply with her conditions of release.”

In emails from Jan. 23, 2022, that were included in the recent filing, Jeffrey Schenk, an attorney for the Justice Department, wrote to Holmes’s lawyer stating that the government had become aware of her travel plans and that she had not obtained approval from the court. “In light of her current bail conditions, we find this concerning,” he wrote, and requested confirmation of the trip’s cancellation by the next morning.

On Nov. 18, 2022, a California judge sentenced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to 11 years and three months in prison for defrauding investors. (Video: Reuters)

Holmes’s lawyer replied that, “given the verdict, she does not plan to take the trip,” noting that her passport had been confiscated. She had not canceled the flight “amidst everything that has been going on,” he said, adding that they would “have her do so promptly.”

Holmes’s partner, William Evans, did end up taking the trip to Mexico and returned to the United States from South Africa more than five weeks later, court documents said. Holmes’s attorneys denied these claims on Sunday, stating that Evans returned four days after departing.

Holmes founded lab testing start-up Theranos in 2003 at age 19, promising technology that could conduct hundreds of medical tests with just a few drops of blood. The company attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from prominent investors including Rupert Murdoch and Walmart’s Walton family. Former defense secretary Jim Mattis was on the board of directors.

In 2015, Holmes’s net worth was $4.5 billion, according to Reuters. Seen as a young, promising CEO, she was featured on the cover of magazines such as Forbes and Fortune.

But her image began crumbling after revelations from a Wall Street Journal investigation that included how Theranos relied on other companies’ technology to conduct the tests. Eventually, it came out that Holmes led what the Thursday filing calls “an elaborate fraud scheme that resulted in more than a hundred million dollars of loss, with no consideration of the patients she endangered and with no remorse to this day toward the investor-victims.”

“There are not two systems of justice — one for the wealthy and one for the poor — there is one criminal justice system in this country,” the prosecutors added.