- An ex-Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategist at Facebook has pleaded guilty to embezzling millions from the company.
- Barbara Furlow-Smiles ran DEI initiatives at Facebook from 2017 to 2021, according to prosecutors.
- Federal prosecutors say she recruited former interns, babysitters, and a hair stylist for her kickback scheme.
A former top Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion manager at Facebook has pleaded guilty to embezzling millions from the social media company as part of a sprawling kickback scheme, federal prosecutors announced this week.
Barbara Furlow-Smiles led DEI initiatives at Facebook — now called Meta — from 2017 to 2021, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Georgia.
Furlow-Smiles diverted more than $4 million from Facebook by linking payment apps to her Facebook credit card and paying out charges to fake vendors, the US Attorney said in a press release on Tuesday.
She “knowingly devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud Facebook … and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and by omission of material facts,” prosecutors said in court documents viewed by Business Insider.
She’d submit the charges as false expense reports, then have the “vendors” give her the money in cash or by transferring funds to her husband’s account.
“Associates paid cash kickbacks in person and by Federal Express or mail, sometimes wrapping the cash in other items, such as T-shirts,” the attorneys said in their press release.
“We are cooperating with law enforcement on the case regarding this former program manager, and we will continue to do so,” a Meta spokesperson said in an email to Business Insider.
Furlow-Smiles’ attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors said in court documents that Furlow-Smiles used her position at Facebook to bring in vendors who were owned by friends and associates. Once Facebook signed off to onboarding them, Furlow-Smiles would inflate the expense reports to make extra money she had the vendors send back to her, prosecutors said.
“In these reports, she falsely claimed that her associates or their businesses provided goods and services to Facebook for various programs and events, when in fact they had not,” prosecutors said.
Among those involved in her scheme were relatives, friends, former interns from a previous job, “nannies and babysitters,” a hair stylist, and her college tutor, prosecutors said.
Furlow-Smiles used the fraud to pay $10,000 to an artist for specialty portraits and more than $18,000 for preschool tuition.
“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 K. 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.”
Furlow-Smiles is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2024, prosecutors said.