Ex-diversity manager Facebook, Nike sentenced for stealing $5M

The ex-diversity program manager for Facebook and Nike who stole more than $5 million from the mega companies 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, set up fake business deals, invoices and events — including a Juneteenth celebration — to line her own pockets, the Justice Department said.

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

Barbara Furlow-Smiles bilked more than $5 million from Facebook and Nike during her time as a DEI manager. 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 guilty in December to the wire fraud scheme, which saw her take more than $4.9 million from Facebook before bilking another six-figure sum from Nike “to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon,” the DOJ said.

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

From approximately 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 said.

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

She used her access to company credit cards and her power to approve invoices for authorized vendors to pay numerous individuals,” including her friends and relatives, “for goods and services that in truth were never provided to Facebook.”

Those individuals — 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 were reportedly unaware that the funds were coming from Facebook – would return the money to Furlow-Smiles in cash or via account transfer. The feds noted that the cash was sometimes delivered to Furlow-Smiles wrapped up in T-shirts or other items.

She also misled Facebook into sending money to entities that did not provide kickbacks, including nearly $10,000 to an artist who created specialty portraits and more than $18,000 to an unnamed preschool.

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

To cover her tracks, the disgraced DEI officer submitted fake expense reports claiming her associates had performed work for Facebook, such as providing swag or marketing services.

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, said.

“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 apparel company, Furlow-Smiles was responsible for supporting DEI initiatives, developing strategies, and hosting DEI events — and had a primary responsibility to organize a Juneteenth event in New York.

Furlow-Smiles used the stolen funds “to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon,” the DOJ said. Meta

For the celebration, Furlow-Smiles followed the same process she had at Facebook: she paid her associates with her Nike corporate card that she linked to her PayPal and Venmo accounts in exchange for kickbacks before filing a counterfeit expense report “falsely claimed that the payments were related to the Juneteenth event.”

In total, Furlow-Smiles bilked more than $.49 million from Facebook and over $120,000 from Nike — all of which a judge ordered that she pay back to the companies.

She was sentenced to five years and three months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Neither Facebook nor Nike responded to requests for comment.

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