June 23, 2024

A former diversity program manager at Facebook and Nike was sentenced to five years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing over $5 million to finance her “luxury lifestyle,” the Department of Justice said earlier this week.

Georgia resident Barbara Furlow-Smiles created an “elaborate scheme,” using “fraudulent vendors, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks,” according to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.

Furlow-Smiles, who pleaded guilty to defrauding Facebook out of more $4 million in December, carried the embezzlement operation to Nike afterwards, Buchanan said.

“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,” Buchanan said.

Per the DOJ, Furlow-Smiles, 38, served as a lead strategist and global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement at Facebook, the company now known as Meta. The agency said that in the role, Furlow-Smiles linked PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards.

She then used those accounts to pay friends, relatives, and other associates for goods and services that were never given to Facebook, the agency said in its statement. To hide the charges, she submitted fraudulent expense reports, it added.

Afterwards, those unnamed individuals kicked back “the vast majority of the money” to Furlow-Smiles, the agency said. The individuals sent bank transfers, handed over cash in-person, and also sent it by mail, the agency’s press release added.

The agency said that Furlow-Smiles’ supposed vendors included friends, relatives, former interns from a previous job, nannies and babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor.

Prosecutors said that Furlow-Smiles also used the scheme to pay almost $10,000 to an artist for speciality portraits and over $18,000 in preschool tuition.

Once she was fired from Facebook, Furlow-Smiles carried the same fraudulent operation over to her new role as senior director of DEI at Nike, “thinking she was untouchable,” commented FBI Atlanta investigator Keri Farley.

In total, Furlow-Smiles’ use of phony charges and fake invoices allowed her to steal over $4.9 million from Facebook and more than $120,000 from Nike. That money was used to “fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon,” the agency said.

Following her prison sentence, Furlow-Smiles will be under three years of supervised release.

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