Former Facebook Diversity Director Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement

A former Facebook diversity consultant pleaded guilty to embezzling millions of dollars from the social media giant this week. Barbara Furlow-Smiles was accused of using the money she took from the company in order to lead a luxurious lifestyle.

Furlow-Smiles admitted to running a kickback operation that stole more than $4 million. She had previously been Facebook’s lead strategist and global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement from 2017 to 2021.

As part of her role, Furlow-Smiles would run the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs.

This position allowed the director access to the company’s credit cards and the ability to okay invoices. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Furlow-Smiles approved a number of phony invoices, including for her friends and family.

The DOJ complaint stated that Facebook spent money “for goods and services never provided to the company.”

According to the Justice Department, the former DEI head received kickback payments from the proceeds of these fake deals.

The DOJ alleged that her former interns, a hair stylist and babysitters were all in on the scheme.

The complaint further alleges that she caused the company to spend tens of thousands on companies that were not approved by the corporation.

The DOJ alleged that Furlow-Smiles “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.”

“Motivated by greed, she used her time to orchestrate an elaborate criminal scheme in which fraudulent vendors paid her kickbacks in cash,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “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.”

The former Facebook official pleaded guilty in Atlanta federal court this week. She was released on a $5,000 bond and will be sentenced on March 19, 2024.