A former Facebook and Nike DEI manager got 5 years in prison for stealing $5 million to fund her luxury lifestyle

  • A former Facebook and Nike diversity manager was sentenced to five years in prison for wire fraud.

  • Barbara Furlow-Smiles admitted to stealing over $5 million from the companies.

  • Attorneys said she used fraudulent vendors, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks.

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

The sentence against Barbara Furlow-Smiles was announced on Monday by the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

"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," US Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said.

Buchanan added: "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."

According to the attorney's office, Furlow-Smiles began her elaborate fraud while working as a diversity, equity, and inclusion executive at Facebook from 2017 to 2021.

In that role, she had access to the company's credit cards and the authority to make purchases and approve invoices for Facebook's vendors.

She used her position to pay friends, family, and other associates for items and services that were never given to Facebook, according to the statement, hiding the phony expenses by filing counterfeit expenditure 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 attorney's office said.

It added that the so-called vendors included Furlow-Smiles' friends, relatives, interns from a former job, nannies and babysitters, a hair stylist, and even her university tutor.

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

After getting fired from Facebook, she continued the fraud in her next role as DEI leader at Nike, "thinking she was untouchable," Buchanan said in a press release.

Over six years, Furlow-Smiles used bogus charges and phony invoices to steal $4.9 million from Facebook and over $120,000 from Nike to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon, according to the attorney's office.

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

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

Facebook and Nike are not the only companies to have faced issues of wire fraud.

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, and former Autonomy chief executive Mike Lynch have been sentenced or are facing charges of wire fraud.

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

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