Former DEI exec gets 5 years in prison for defrauding Facebook, Nike

Former exec also ordered to repay more than $5 million stolen from the organisations

Former DEI exec gets 5 years in prison for defrauding Facebook, Nike

A former executive of Facebook and Nike on their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) teams has been sentenced to five years and three months of jail time for defrauding her employers more than $5 million.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles, who pleaded guilty for wire fraud, was also ordered to repay the total amount that she stole of more than $4.9 million to Facebook, and over $121,000 to Nike.

"Her prison sentence reflects the consequences of her decision to orchestrate an intricate scheme to defraud two of her employers for personal profit," said U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan in a statement.

Defrauding Facebook

According to Buchanan and other information presented in court, Furlow-Smiles previously served as Lead Strategist, Global Head of Employee Resource Groups and Diversity Engagement at Facebook, Inc., now known as Meta Platforms.

She used to lead Facebook's DEI programmes from January 2017 to September 2021, where she had access to company credit cards.

"Furlow-Smiles shamelessly violated her position of trust as a DEI executive at Facebook to steal millions from the company utilising a scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks," Buchanan said.

As part of her scheme, Furlow-Smiles linked Facebook credit cards to her PayPal, Venmo, and CashApp accounts to make Facebook pay for goods and services that were never provided.

Individuals who received payments from Facebook would the return most of the money to Furlow-Smiles through cash, account transfers, in person, and by Federal Express or mail.

In another scheme, she also used her position to onboard several vendors operated by her friends and associates, who would return a portion of the money they received from Facebook to Furlow-Smiles, who filed fraudulent invoices to get them paid.

To hide her involvement, Furlow-Smiles ordered her associates in the scheme to pay one another, or others she owed money to. She also submitted to Facebook fraudulent expense reports that claimed her associates and their businesses did work for the organisation.

Defrauding Nike

After she got fired on Facebook, she moved to Nike in November 2021 to February 2023 as Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

In her position, she also circumvented the vendor process at Nike to commit fraud. She also linked her Nike corporate card to her Paypal and Venmo accounts, and then paid her associates, who would then return a portion of the payment.

As she did on Facebook, the former senior director also filed fraudulent expense reports to Nike to cover her scheme, claiming that they were related to a Juneteenth event that she handled in the organisation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) handled the investigation against Furlow-Smiles.

In addition to five years in prison, the former DEI exec also got three years of supervised release.

Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said Furlow-Smiles believed she was "untouchable" after committing her fraudulent schemes in Nike after getting fired from Facebook.

"As a result, she not only threw away a lucrative career, but will serve time behind bars for her excessive greed," Farley said in a statement.

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