In a Facebook Story she hoped would never become public, former Facebook employee Barbara Furlow-Smiles entered a guilty plea today for stealing over $4 million from the social media giant, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia.
The Atlanta-based Furlow-Smiles, 38, led diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs for Facebook (whose parent company is Meta) from 2017 to 2021. During that time, she used her position and Meta money to live like a rockstar, booking expensive hair stylist appointments and babysitting services. She even stole money to pay a hefty $18,000 tuition payment for a preschool.
“This defendant abused a position of 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 U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.
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How she did it
Buchanan detailed Furlow-Smiles’ elaborate scam in detail. First, she linked her corporate credit cards to her personal digital payment platforms, including PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App. Then, she used these apps to pay relatives and associates for goods and services allegedly for Facebook. But in reality, nothing went to the company. The accomplices returned most of the money to Furlow-Smiles as a cash kickback. To cover her fake credit card charges, Furlow-Smiles submitted fraudulent expense reports.
But the fraud did not stop there. Furlow-Smiles also hired friends and associates as vendors for Facebook, approving their inflated invoices and taking a percentage. Some services she acquired included $10,000 to an artist for a portrait.
Meta has not said much publicly about the case. In an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, they wrote, “We are cooperating with law enforcement on the case regarding this former program manager, and we will continue to do so.”