Ex-DEI Boss at Facebook Sentenced to Jail for Stealing Funds

Following her December guilty plea to theft of more than $5 million from Facebook and Nike, a former director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at both companies was sentenced to nearly five years in prison.

At Facebook, 38-year-old Barbara Furlow-Smiles oversaw employee resource groups and diversity initiatives from around January 2017 until September 2021.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia said that she stole over $4.9 million from the social media behemoth during that period to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon.

The US Attorney, Ryan K. Buchanan, said that 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.

Following her dismissal from Facebook, she took a position as head of diversity, equality, and inclusion at Nike—only to continue her criminal ways.

Nike lost about $121,000 to Furlow-Smiles.

She was able to con Facebook—now known as Meta—by using her position as a trusted employee with access to working capital.

The former diversity officer charged friends, family, and acquaintances for services that were never rendered to Facebook using the PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts that she had connected to her Facebook credit cards.

Submitting false expense reports in which she falsely claimed that her colleagues had worked on Facebook projects or events was how she hid her tracks.

Another part of her scam involved pretending to work for Facebook by hiring merchants with whom she had personal connections.

After Furlow-Smiles approved the merchants’ fictitious bills, she instructed them to pay her a cut of the money they earned from Facebook.

Among the so-called merchants were a hairdresser, nannies, babysitters, acquaintances, relatives, and interns from Furlow-Smiles’s previous employer.

The fate of these individuals in terms of potential charges is uncertain.

She also spent over $18,000 on preschool tuition and over $10,000 on specialized photos, all of which were funded by Facebook.

After these people were paid by Facebook, they returned the money to Furlow-Smiles, who kept it for herself. They could give her cash in the form of T-shirts or deposit the funds into her or her husband’s bank accounts online.

Whether Furlow-Smiles’ dismissal from Facebook was related to this fraud is unclear. However, from November 2021 until February 2023, when Nike employed her, she resumed her practice of obtaining kickbacks via accomplices.

She foolishly persisted in her deceitful activities while employed by Nike, believing she was immune to consequences. Special Agent Keri Farley of the FBI, said that the woman wasted a successful career and will now spend time in prison for her extreme greed.

Five years and three months in jail and three years of supervised release are in store for Furlow-Smiles.

Both Facebook and Nike have demanded repayment from her.