Who Is Barbara Furlow-Smiles? Ex-Facebook Diversity Manager Pleads Guilty to Stealing Over $4 Million from Company to Fund Lavish Lifestyle

Furlow-Smiles allegedly submitted fraudulent invoices to Facebook and in return received hefty kickbacks.

A former manager in Facebook's diversity program pleaded guilty to defrauding the social media company of over $4 million. The scheme involved fabricating business deals and receiving kickbacks, according to the Justice Department. Barbara Furlow-Smiles, 38, pleaded guilty to scamming her company and leading a luxurious lifestyle.

Furlow-Smiles served as the Lead Strategist, Global Head of Employee Resource Groups, and Diversity Engagement at Facebook from January 2017 to September 2021. During that period, attorneys from the US Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Georgia claimed that she cheated and defrauded the company of over $4 million. Furlow-Smiles allegedly submitted fraudulent invoices to Facebook and in return received hefty kickbacks.

Defrauding Her Employer

Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Barbara Furlow-Smiles X

According to federal authorities, Furlow-Smiles, leveraging her position with access to company credit cards and invoice approval authority, allegedly "caused Facebook to pay numerous individuals," including friends and relatives, for "goods and services never actually provided to the company."

Those people would later funnel kickbacks to Furlow-Smiles. She allegedly used the ill-gotten funds to lead a luxurious lifestyle in both California and Georgia.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Barbara Furlow-Smiles X

"This defendant abused a position of a trust as a global diversity executive for Facebook to defraud the company of millions of dollars, ignoring the insidious consequences of undermining the importance of her DEI mission," said US Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.

"Motivated by greed, she used her time to orchestrate an elaborate criminal scheme in which fraudulent vendors paid her kickbacks in cash. She even involved relatives, friends, and other associates in her crimes, all to fund a lavish lifestyle through fraud rather than hard and honest work."

Furlow-Smiles' scheme operated in two ways, leading Facebook to pay for goods and services that the company never received, while she allegedly received kickbacks through both avenues.

Strange Modus Operandi

The ex-diversity executive reportedly linked her PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards. She allegedly used these accounts to make payments to friends, relatives, and associates, falsely claiming these transactions were for goods and services rendered to Facebook.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Barbara Furlow-Smiles' LinkedIn profile LinkedIn

In reality, no such goods or services were provided to the company. To cover up these fraudulent charges, Furlow-Smiles allegedly submitted fabricated expense reports, falsely stating that her associates had delivered services like merchandise or marketing.

Upon receiving payments from Facebook, her associates would allegedly return most of the funds to Furlow-Smiles, either in cash or by transferring money to accounts in her or her husband's name.

Furlow-Smiles also allegedly deceived Facebook into sending funds to entities that did not participate in kickback schemes. This included approximately $10,000 sent to an artist responsible for crafting specialty portraits and over $18,000 directed to an unnamed preschool.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Barbara Furlow-Smiles X

FBI Special Agent Keri Farley said, "Furlow-Smiles used lies and deceit to defraud both vendors and Facebook employees."

The DOJ mentioned that Meta had "provided valuable assistance and cooperation during the investigation."

"We are cooperating with law enforcement on the case regarding this former program manager, and we will continue to do so," Meta said in a statement.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Barbara Furlow-Smiles X

Furlow-Smiles is scheduled to be sentenced on March 19, 2024.

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