Posted on May 20, 2024

Former Facebook and Nike Diversity Manager Gets 5 Years in Prison for $5 Million Fraud

Dan Mangan, CNBC, May 16, 2024

former diversity manager at Facebook and Nike was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for stealing more than $5 million from those companies that had been earmarked for DEI initiatives, federal prosecutors said.

Georgia resident Barbara Furlow-Smiles, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in the case in December, stole more than $4.9 million from Facebook “utilizing a scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks,” Atlanta U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan said in a statement.

“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,” Buchanan said.

Furlow-Smiles, 38, used the money she stole “to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia and Oregon,” according to Buchanan’s office, which had asked a judge to sentence her to 6½ years.

She was a lead strategist and global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement at Facebook, the subsidiary of Meta. She was not Facebook’s top executive for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Prosecutors said that while at Facebook she linked PayPal, Venmo and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards and then used those accounts to pay her friends, relatives, and others for purported goods and services for the company that were never delivered.


Prosecutors in a sentencing memo said that Meta determined that Furlow-Smiles began the scheme within months of joining the company in 2017 {snip}

After she was fired from Facebook in mid-2021, Furlow-Smiles worked for Nike from November of that year to February 2023 as senior director of diversity, equity & inclusion.

While there, she executed a theft scheme similar to the one she did at Facebook, prosecutors said.


Nike also told prosecutors her “complete lack of accountability or remorse was incredibly disappointing,” according to the memo.