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Ex-Facebook, Nike DEI manager was sentenced to 5 years in prison for stealing $5 million

A former diversity program manager at Facebook and Nike has been sentenced to five years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $5 million to fund her luxurious lifestyle.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles’ sentence was announced Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Furlow-Smiles shamelessly violated his position of trust as a DEI executive at Facebook to steal millions from the company using a scheme involving fraudulent suppliers, false invoices and bribes,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.

Buchanan added: “After being fired from Facebook, she brazenly continued the fraud as a DEI leader at Nike, where she stole another six-figure sum from their diversity program.”

According to the attorney’s office, Furlow-Smiles began her elaborate fraud while working as Facebook’s head of diversity, equity and inclusion from 2017 to 2021.

In this role, she had access to company credit cards and had the authority to make purchases and approve invoices from Facebook suppliers.

She used her position to pay friends, family and other associates for items and services that were never provided to Facebook, according to the release, hiding the false expenses by filing counterfeit expense reports.

Once these people received the money, they returned most of it to Furlow-Smiles in cash, either in person or sometimes by Federal Express or mail, the prosecutor’s office said.

He said the so-called sellers included friends of Furlow-Smiles, relatives, interns from a previous job, nannies and babysitters, a hairdresser and even his university tutor.

Furlow-Smiles also used the fraud to pay more than $18,000 in preschool tuition and nearly $10,000 to an artist for specialty photos, it says.

After being fired from Facebook, she continued to commit fraud in her next role as a DEI leader at Nike, “thinking she was untouchable,” Buchanan said in a press release.

For six years, Furlow-Smiles used false accusations and invoices to steal $4.9 million from Facebook and more than $120,000 from Nike to finance a luxurious lifestyle in California, Georgia and Oregon, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“As a result, not only has she wasted a lucrative career, but she will also serve time behind bars for her excessive greed,” Buchanan said.

Furlow-Smiles was also ordered to pay Facebook nearly $5 million and Nike approximately $120,000 in restitution.

Facebook and Nike aren’t the only companies that have faced wire fraud issues.

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, and former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch have been convicted or face wire fraud charges.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said it received a record 880,000 online fraud complaints in 2023, with possible losses of more than $12.5 billion.


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