Former Facebook Diversity Manager Pleads Guilty To Stealing More Than $4 Million From Company

She used the money for a "luxury lifestyle" in California and Georgia, prosecutors said.
UKRAINE - 2020/09/04: In this photo illustration a Facebook logo seen displayed on a smartphone with 100 dollar bills in the background. (Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A former Facebook global diversity strategist pled guilty to stealing more than $4 million from the company through an “elaborate scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fictitious charges, and cash kickbacks,” federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles, 38, pled guilty to wire fraud related to the scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta said in a statement.

Furlow-Smiles led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at Facebook between January, 2017 and September, 2021. As Facebook’s lead strategist and global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement, Furlow-Smiles was responsible for developing and executing DEI initiatives, operations, and engagement programs, prosecutors said.

She had access to company credit cards and was able to approve invoices and used her position to “cheat and defraud the company,” prosecutors said.

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 to Facebook, prosecutors said.

She then submitted fraudulent expense reports to hide those charges, falsely claiming that her friends had performed work for Facebook, such as providing swag or marketing.

Those people then paid kickbacks to Furlow-Smiles, sometimes through accounts in her husband’s and other people’s names, prosecutors said. Sometimes the kickbacks were paid in cash in person and sometimes through the mail. Cash was even hidden in a t-shirt at one point, prosecutors said. Furlow-Smiles also sometimes told her friends to pay one another to hide the scheme, prosecutors said.

Furlow-Smiles also had Facebook hire vendors operated by her friends, prosecutors said, and she approved fraudulent and inflated invoices to pay the vendors, who then paid her kickbacks.

People who were part of the scheme included friends, relatives, former interns from a prior job, nannies and babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor. She even had Facebook pay for several expenses of other people, including $10,000 to an artist for specialty portraits and more than $18,000 for preschool tuition, according to prosecutors.

“She used the money to live a luxury lifestyle in California and Georgia,” prosecutors said.

Her sentencing is scheduled for March 19.

It is not clear whether any of the other people involved in the scheme will be charged. Prosecutors said most of the people were not aware that the money was coming from Facebook.

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, cooperated with the investigation, which is being investigated by the FBI.

“This defendant abused a position of a trust as a global diversity executive for Facebook to defraud the company of millions of dollars, ignoring the insidious consequences of undermining the importance of her DEI mission,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan.

“Motivated by greed, she used her time to orchestrate an elaborate criminal scheme in which fraudulent vendors paid her kickbacks in cash. She even involved relatives, friends, and other associates in her crimes, all to fund a lavish lifestyle through fraud rather than hard and honest work,” Buchanan said.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Former Facebook Diversity Manager Pleads Guilty To Stealing More Than $4 Million From Company