Ex-diversity boss at Facebook, Nike who orchestrated fake events to steal $5M gets five years, must pay back hefty sum

The ex-diversity program supervisor for Facebook and Nike who stole greater than $5 million from the mega corporations to fund her “luxury lifestyle” was sentenced Monday to five years behind bars — and ordered to pay back the hefty sum.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles, 38, arrange fake enterprise offers, invoices and events — together with a Juneteenth celebration — to line her personal pockets, the Justice Department mentioned.

“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,” mentioned US Attorney Ryan Okay. Buchanan said in a statement.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Barbara Furlow-Smiles bilked greater than $5 million from Facebook and Nike throughout her time as a DEI supervisor. Amazon

“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.”

Furlow-Smiles pleaded responsible in December to the wire fraud scheme, which noticed her take greater than $4.9 million from Facebook earlier than bilking one other six-figure sum from Nike “to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon,” the DOJ mentioned.

The social media firm claimed her “crimes also resulted in anguish amongst those employees that worked closely with her,” whereas Nike slammed her “complete lack of accountability or remorse was incredibly disappointing,” in accordance to sentencing memos obtained by CNBC.

From roughly January 2017 to September 2021, the Georgia native “led diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at Facebook and was responsible for developing and executing DEI initiatives, operations, and engagement programs,” prosecutors mentioned.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Furlow-Smiles created counterfeit invoices to cowl her tracks. Getty Images

She used her entry to firm bank cards and her energy to approve invoices for approved distributors to pay quite a few people,” together with her pals and family members, “for goods and services that in truth were never provided to Facebook.”

Those people — which allegedly included her former interns, her “university tutor,” a hair stylist, babysitters and nannies — would later funnel kickbacks to Furlow-Smiles.

The associates – most of whom have been reportedly unaware that the funds have been coming from Facebook – would return the cash to Furlow-Smiles in money or through account switch. The feds famous that the money was typically delivered to Furlow-Smiles wrapped up in T-shirts or different gadgets.

She additionally misled Facebook into sending cash to entities that didn’t present kickbacks, together with almost $10,000 to an artist who created specialty portraits and greater than $18,000 to an unnamed preschool.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Furlow-Smiles recruited her former interns, her “university tutor,” a hair stylist, babysitters and nannies for the scheme. LinkedIn / Barbara Furlow-Smiles

To cowl her tracks, the disgraced DEI officer submitted fake expense stories claiming her associates had carried out work for Facebook, similar to offering swag or advertising companies.

When she was fired from Facebook, Furlow-Smiles “carelessly continued her fraudulent schemes at Nike, thinking she was untouchable,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, mentioned.

“As a result, she not only threw away a lucrative career, but will serve time behind bars for her excessive greed.”

As the senior director of DEI at the athletic attire firm, Furlow-Smiles was chargeable for supporting DEI initiatives, growing methods, and internet hosting DEI events — and had a major duty to manage a Juneteenth occasion in New York.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles at an event.
Furlow-Smiles used the stolen funds “to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon,” the DOJ mentioned. Meta

For the celebration, Furlow-Smiles adopted the identical course of she had at Facebook: she paid her associates together with her Nike company card that she linked to her PayPal and Venmo accounts in change for kickbacks earlier than submitting a counterfeit expense report “falsely claimed that the payments were related to the Juneteenth event.”

In complete, Furlow-Smiles bilked greater than $.49 million from Facebook and over $120,000 from Nike — all of which a decide ordered that she pay back to the businesses.

She was sentenced to five years and three months in jail, adopted by three years of supervised launch.

Neither Facebook nor Nike responded to requests for remark.

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