According to federal prosecutors, a former global diversity strategist at Facebook pled guilty to wire fraud after taking more than $4 million from the social media giant “to fund a lavish lifestyle” in California and Georgia.
Barbara Furlow-Smiles, who supervised different Facebook Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion projects from 2017 until mid-2021, took the money “through an elaborate scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fictitious charges, and cash kickbacks,” according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office in Atlanta.
Furlow-Smiles, who pled guilty in federal court in Atlanta on Monday, was not the top DEI leader for Facebook, which is owned by Meta.
Prosecutors claimed Furlow-Smiles, 38, induced Facebook to pay people for products and services that were never given to the corporation and then had those persons pay her kickbacks.
“These individuals included friends, relatives, former interns from a prior job, nannies and babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated in a statement.
Furlow-Smiles had Facebook pay persons who did not offer her kickbacks in some cases, prosecutors claimed, directing $10,000 to an artist for custom pictures and more than $18,000 to a preschool for tuition.
Furlow-Smiles used PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts linked to her Facebook credit cards to pay friends, relatives, and other connections for goods and services reportedly delivered to Facebook.
Furlow-Smiles, according to US Attorney Ryan Buchanan, abused her position of trust at Facebook to “defraud the company of millions of dollars, ignoring the insidious consequences of undermining the importance of her DEI mission.”
Prosecutors stated that Meta assisted and cooperated with the criminal inquiry.
Furlow-Smiles, who lives in Atlanta, will be sentenced on March 19. She is out on bond for $5,000.
In a statement to CNBC, a Meta spokeswoman said, “We are cooperating with law enforcement on the case regarding this former program manager, and we will continue to do so.”
Furlow-Smiles’ lawyer, Lance Clarke, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.