Former Facebook executive Barbara Furlow-Smiles has pleaded guilty to taking her employer to the cleaners to the tune of $4 million.
The former global diversity executive for Facebook used the cash “to live a luxury lifestyle in California and Georgia,” according to a Department of Justice news release.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said.
“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 served as Lead Strategist, Global Head of Employee Resource Groups and Diversity Engagement at Facebook, which is now known as Meta. From January 2017 to September 2021, she led Facebook’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programming.
In that role, she could approve purchases and had a company credit card.
Furlow-Smiles linked PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards and through them paid friends, relatives, and other associates for providing goods and services to Facebook that were never provided.
Furlow-Smiles created a paper trail in which the people she paid had done work for Facebook when they had not.
According to the criminal information against her that indicated she faced a charge of wire fraud, “After her associates received payments from Facebook, they kicked back the vast majority of the money to defendant Furlow-Smiles.”
“Associates paid the cash kickbacks in person and by Federal Express or mail, sometimes wrapping the cash in other items, such as T-shirts. Defendant Furlow-Smiles also directed associates to pay each other, or others to whom she owed money, to conceal her involvement in the scheme,” the document said.
The criminal information said Furlow-Smiles recruited people, including “friends, relatives, former interns from a prior job, nannies and babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor.
“She also caused Facebook to make payments for her benefit to others who did not pay kickbacks. For example, defendant Furlow-Smiles caused Facebook to pay nearly $10,000 to an artist for specialty portraits and more than $18,000 to a preschool for tuition.”
Furlow-Smiles also set up a scheme in which “several vendors that were owned and operated by friends and associates who paid her kickbacks” were made Facebook vendors. She would the order from them and approve “fraudulent and inflated invoices to charge against the purchase orders. Facebook paid the invoices once she approved them. After payment, defendant Furlow-Smiles directed the vendors to return a portion of the money they had received to her.
“These kickbacks were paid in cash, in transfers to accounts held in her husband’s name, and in transfers to others associated with defendant Furlow-Smiles,” the criminal information said.
Furlow-Smiles will be sentenced on March 19.
“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, according to the New York Post.
Furlow-Smiles’s associates were not named, and it is not known if they will face charges.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.