Diversity BOSS gets FIVE YEARS in PRISON for STEALING MILLIONS from Facebook!

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A former diversity program manager at Facebook and Nike has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for stealing over $5 million through an elaborate scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fictitious paperwork, and cash kickbacks.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles, 38, of Marietta, Georgia, served as Lead Strategist, Global Head of Employee Resource Groups and Diversity Engagement at Facebook, now known as Meta. From January 2017 to September 2021 she led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at Facebook and was responsible for developing and executing DEI initiatives, operations, and engagement programs.

According to US Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan, Furlow-Smiles had access to company credit cards and the authority to submit purchase requisitions and approve invoices for authorized vendors of Facebook. She used her position to cheat and defraud the company by causing Facebook to pay numerous individuals for goods and services that were never provided and got kickbacks from those individuals, often in cash.

Furlow-Smiles linked PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards and used those accounts to pay friends, relatives, and others for goods and services that were never provided. She concealed the bogus charges by submitting fraudulent expense reports, falsely claiming that her associates or their businesses had performed work on programs and events for Facebook when they had not done so.

After these individuals received the payments from Facebook, they returned the majority of the money to Furlow-Smiles, paying the kickbacks in cash and through account transfers to others, including her husband. She also directed them to pay each other and the people she owed money to conceal her involvement.

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According to the FBI, Furlow-Smiles also caused Facebook to onboard several vendors that were owned and operated by friends and associates who paid her kickbacks and she approved fraudulent invoices for these vendors. After Facebook paid the invoices, Furlow-Smiles had the vendors return a portion of the money they received to her.

Furlow-Smiles recruited friends, relatives, former interns from a prior job, nannies, babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor to participate in the scheme. Some of the charges Furlow-Smiles caused Facebook to pay included almost $10,000 to an artist for specialty portraits and over $18,000 to a preschool for tuition.

After she was terminated from Facebook, she went to work for Nike from November 2021 to February 2023 as the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, responsible for supporting DEI initiatives, developing strategies, and hosting DEI events including a Juneteenth event in New York.

Furlow-Smiles enacted the same vendor scheme to defraud Nike by linking her corporate card to her PayPal and Venmo accounts which she used to pay her associates, causing fraudulent charges to her Nike card. According to the Justice Department, Furlow-Smiles stole over $4.9 million from Facebook and over $120,000 from Nike to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon.

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Buchanan said in a statement, “Furlow-Smiles shamelessly violated her position of trust as a DEI executive at Facebook to steal millions from the company utilizing a scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks. After being terminated from Facebook, she brazenly continued the fraud as a DEI leader at Nike, where she stole another six-figure sum from their diversity program. Her prison sentence reflects the consequences of her decision to orchestrate an intricate scheme to defraud two of her employers for personal profit.”

Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta added, “As Lead Strategist at Facebook, Furlow-Smiles’ employer put an extreme amount of trust in her, only to have that trust completely violated. After she was fired, she carelessly continued her fraudulent schemes at Nike, thinking she was untouchable. As a result, she not only threw away a lucrative career but will serve time behind bars for her excessive greed.”

Furlow-Smiles was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Steven D. Grimberg to five years and three months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $4,981,783.58 in restitution to Facebook and $121,054.50 to Nike, for a total of $5,102,838.08. Furlow-Smiles previously pled guilty to wire fraud on December 11, 2023.

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