BRYAN, Tex. - Elizabeth Holmes made an audacious bet with her failed blood-testing company, Theranos: collect hundreds of millions of dollars by lying to investors in hopes her defective technology would begin to work.
She took another gamble after being indicted by the federal government in 2018: take the case to trial – rather than plead guilty and get a lighter sentence.
And after being convicted and sentenced to 11 years, three months in federal prison, Holmes took her final chance: attempt to stay out of custody while fighting her case on appeal.
Holmes lost at every turn.
The 39-year-old disgraced entrepreneur on Tuesday was seen walking into federal custody shortly after 10 a.m. Pacific Time in Bryan, Texas – a harsh punishment she could have avoided, or reduced, had she been more cautious with her wagers.
"She gambled on herself, and she lost," said former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, who’s been following the case. "Whether it’s because of narcissism, delusion or bad legal advice, she continued to double down."
Holmes refused to accept responsibility for her crimes even after being convicted, abandoning any chance of a decreased punishment.
And she appears to still be defiant about her innocence, even as she attempted to shed her previous image in a controversial profile in the New York Times that detailed her remaining days of freedom.
Holmes had been living out those final moments with her two children and partner Billy Evans in their affluent community in Southern California -- a lifestyle that will change significantly as she’s processed inside the women’s prison camp adjacent to College Station, Texas.
Current inmates in the prison were apparently eager to meet her, with one telling the Wall Street Journal that some "want to be her friend."
"It’s going to be a rude awakening," Rahmani said. "She’s not a career criminal. Lucky for her federal prison tends to be nicer than state prison and local jails. And the chance of violence is reduced."
Nevertheless, Holmes will have to serve 85% of her time, even if she’s a model inmate. She will lose any autonomy she enjoys on the outside, being forced to wake up, eat, work and go to bed and set times.
"She’s going from being a billionaire to just another of several hundred federal inmates," Rahmani said.
Entering prison on Tuesday wraps up a protracted legal sage for Holmes, who dropped out of Stanford in 2003 to become the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. It turns out her company was a sham, and she was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in 2022 for bilking investors with promises to revolutionize the blood-testing industry.
Holmes was sentenced later that year. Her co-defendant, former partner and boyfriend, Sunny Balwani, received a 13-year sentence and surrendered to federal prison in Terminal Island in April.
Before it all came crashing down, Holmes was a celebrated CEO and the embodiment of the so-called "girlboss," dressing like Apple founding Steve Jobs and speaking in a baritone voice she’s now conceded was fabricated.
She courted rich investors, claiming her technology could do hundreds of tests off a single drop of blood, when in reality her machines were plagued with mechanical issues.
What’s more, her reagent testing process proved to be nothing more than ineffective, miniaturized versions of tests that were already on the market.
Holmes was exposed in 2015 by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, who later wrote the definitive book on the case, "Bad Blood."
Her story also inspired the popular Hulu series, "The Dropout," starring Amanda Seyfried, chronicling the rise and fall of Theranos.
A federal grand jury indicted Holmes and Balwani in 2018. She remained free on bail and subsequently had two children with hotel heir Evans.
After being sentenced to 11 years, three months in November 2022 while pregnant with her second child, Holmes was given a self-surrender date of April 27.
Since her sentencing, Holmes filed two motions to stay out of custody pending her appeal of the case, delaying her self-surrender date to May 30.
Judge Edward Davila, who presided over her trial, rejected her motion to stay out, as did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, ending any chance Holmes could continue to delay.
Holmes was ordered to pay $452 million in restitution to the victims of her crimes.
This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.
Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky