DEI executive sentenced for stealing millions from Facebook, Nike

A former diversity program manager for Facebook and Nike, who admitted to orchestrating kickback schemes that resulted in the theft of $5 million, is now headed to federal prison.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced that Barbara Furlow-Smiles, 38, has been sentenced to five years and three months in prison for her fraud schemes. She has also been ordered to pay restitution of $4,981,783.58 to Facebook’s parent company, Meta, and $121,054.50 to Nike.

“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 U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “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. Her prison sentence reflects the consequences of her decision to orchestrate an intricate scheme to defraud two of her employers for personal profit.”

Furlow-Smiles, who led diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at Facebook from January 2017 to September 2021, was responsible for developing and executing DEI initiatives. Prosecutors revealed that she linked PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to credit cards provided by Facebook and used those accounts to pay friends, relatives, former interns, nannies, babysitters, a hairstylist, and others for services that were never rendered.

Following her termination from Facebook, Furlow-Smiles took on a role as a DEI senior director at Nike from November 2021 to February 2023, where she continued her fraudulent activities, stealing more than $120,000.

“As Lead Strategist at Facebook, Furlow-Smiles’ employer put an extreme amount of trust in her, only to have that trust completely violated,” stated Keri Farley, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “After she was fired, she carelessly continued her fraudulent schemes at Nike, thinking she was untouchable. As a result, she not only threw away a lucrative career, but will serve time behind bars for her excessive greed.”

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