Former diversity manager for Facebook and Nike gets five years in prison for stealing $5 million

The former diversity program manager for Nike and Facebook who stole more than $5 million from large companies to support her luxury lifestyle has been sentenced to five years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles, 38, set up false business deals, invoices, and events—including a Juneteenth celebration—to pad her own pockets.

U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan said: “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.”

‘[S]he carelessly continued her fraudulent schemes at Nike, thinking she was untouchable.’

“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. Her prison sentence reflects the consequences of her decision to orchestrate an intricate scheme to defraud two of her employers for personal profit.”

The New York Post reported that Furlow-Smiles pleaded guilty to the wire fraud scheme in December, which allowed her to take $4.9 million from Facebook before siphoning a six-figure amount from Nike.

The social media juggernaut claimed that Furlow-Smiles’ “crimes also resulted in anguish amongst those employees that worked closely with her.” Nike went on to say that her “complete lack of accountability or remorse was incredibly disappointing,” per memos that were obtained by CNBC.

From early 2017 to late 2021, Furlow-Smiles “led diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at Facebook and was responsible for developing and executing DEI initiatives, operations, and engagement programs,” according to prosecutors in the case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated that Furlow-Smiles managed to get others involved in her schemes, noting that these individuals included “friends, relatives, former interns from a prior job, nannies and babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor.”

“As Lead Strategist at Facebook, Furlow-Smiles’ employer put an extreme amount of trust in her, only to have that trust completely violated,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “After she was fired, she carelessly continued her fraudulent schemes at Nike, thinking she was untouchable. As a result, she not only threw away a lucrative career, but will serve time behind bars for her excessive greed.”

The New York Post reported that neither Facebook nor Nike responded to requests for comment.

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