A scheme led by an ex-Facebook employee has come to light.
CNBC reports that on Dec. 11, Barbara Furlow-Smiles, a former Facebook global diversity strategist, pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Federal prosecutors detailed that Furlow-Smiles stole over $4 million from the company “to fund a lavish lifestyle in California and Georgia.”
From 2017 to 2021, when Furlow-Smiles was leading Facebook Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, she stole money in “an elaborate scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fictitious charges, and cash kickbacks,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, GA, said in a statement, per CNBC.
In addition, it was shared that her wrongdoing resulted in Facebook paying people for services that weren’t provided, and then the same group would pay her cash kickbacks. Her alleged fraud did not always involve kickbacks, but had money go toward large expenses. A specific instance included her directing over $18,000 to a preschool for tuition.
Furlow-Smiles was able to carry out her $4 million scheme through linking PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards. Then, she would pay people in her circle for purported services that were never provided to the company.
“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 said.
U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan also pointed out that Furlow-Smiles had misused her role as a global diversity strategist at Facebook to “defraud the company of millions of dollars, ignoring the insidious consequences of undermining the importance of her DEI mission.”
The outlet notes that Meta, Facebook’s parent company, assisted the federal prosecutors with the investigation.
“We are cooperating with law enforcement on the case regarding this former program manager, and we will continue to do so,” a Meta spokesperson shared in a statement, per the outlet.
Furlow-Smiles’ sentencing is slated for March 19, 2024. What’s more, the Atlanta resident is free on a $5,000 bond.