(BrightPress.org) – On December 12th, former global diversity strategist for Facebook, Barbara Furlow-Smiles, 38, pled guilty to stealing over $4 million from the company through a wire fraud scheme.
According to federal prosecutors, Furlow-Smiles used an “elaborate scheme” to steal the funds by using “fraudulent vendors, fictitious charges, and cash kickbacks.”
From January 2017 through September 2021, Furlow-Smiles led Facebook’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs, where she was responsible for developing and executing the company’s DEI initiatives, operations, and engagement programs. According to prosecutors, she allegedly used her position to “cheat and defraud the company” through her access to company credit cards and ability to approve invoices.
Prosecutors allege she linked Facebook’s credit cards to her personal Cash App, Venmo, and PayPal accounts. She then used her personal accounts to pay her friends, relatives, and others, for goods and services not actually provided to Facebook. She hid the charges by submitting fraudulent expense reports, falsely claiming her friends had performed work for Facebook.
Kickbacks were paid by those people to Furlow-Smiles, sometimes through her husband’s account and sometimes through cash. Prosecutors allege she had Facebook hire vendors run by her friends, then approved inflated and fraudulent invoices to pay them. The vendors then paid kickbacks to Furlow-Smiles.
Those allegedly involved in the scheme included former interns of Furlow-Smiles, babysitters, nannies, a hairstylist, and her “university tutor,” according to prosecutors. It is unclear if any others involved in the scheme would be charged. Prosecutors have said they were reportedly unaware the money was coming from Facebook.
Furlow-Smiles had Facebook pay for the expenses, such as $18,000 for preschool tuition and $10,000 for specialty portraits, according to prosecutors who said she used the funds “to live a luxury lifestyle in California and Georgia.”
In a statement from the parent company of Facebook, Meta said it was cooperating with the investigation.
Sentencing for Furlow-Smiles is scheduled for March 19th.
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