In 2018, Elizabeth Holmes went from being one of TIME’s Most Influential People in the World, to being charged with criminal fraud.
The 35-year-old had effectively scammed US$9 billion (AUD$12.7) from investors through her company Theranos, which promised to revolutionise medical testing through advanced blood analysis. Holmes claimed her technology could detect a number of diseases and conditions using only a few drops of blood, however this was soon discovered to be part of an elaborate lie.
At its peak, Theranos was valued at $9 billion. In 2018, Holmes was indicted to face a federal grand jury on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She’s still awaiting trial, and could face a jail term of 20 years.
Forty four years before Holmes’ empire crumbled, a similar ‘self-made woman’ by the name of Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael (more commonly known as Liz Carmichael) scammed investors of $30 million.
In the midst of soaring fuel prices during the 1970s oil crisis, Carmichael – a self-described widow of a NASA structural engineer, mum of five and trans woman – seemingly had the answer.
She claimed her company, the Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation had the prototype and technology to create The Dale - a fuel-efficient, three-wheel car which would weigh less than 1,000 pounds (453kgs), run at 70 miles per gallon of fuel (which rivals today's standard for fuel efficiency by 20 miles) and cost less than $2000 to buy. When questioned on the stability of a three-wheel vehicle, she claimed the 'low centre of gravity' would increase the car's stability, making it near impossible to tip over.
“We're going to shock General Motors, Ford and the rest of them right out of their big, overstuffed seats," she told the New York Times, who described her as a dominating "six‐footer with bulging biceps".
“I don't care about the public, I only care about money,” she continued.
“I'm going to build the public exactly what they're looking for and I'm going to knock the hell out of Detroit doing it.”