Former Facebook DEI executive pleads guilty in $4M fraud scheme

 December 15, 2023

In what must surely be an embarrassing turn of events for tech mogul Mark Zuckerberg, the former head of Facebook's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives has just pleaded guilty to stealing over $4 million from the social media giant, as Fox Business reports.

According to the outlet, Barbara Furlow-Smiles orchestrated a scheme in which she scammed massive sums of money from the company via phony business deals, which resulted in kickbacks that she used to finance her own lavish lifestyle.

Furlow-Smiles once occupied a lofty position at Facebook, serving as lead strategist and global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement, according to Fox Business.

However, her income from the company was apparently insufficient in her estimation, given that she linked Venmo, PayPal, and other payment accounts to company credit cards, and then used the accounts to pay friends, family, and other acquaintances for illusory goods and services.

Once those payments were received by the other parties, they returned a portion of the money to Furlow-Smiles in the form of cash and electronic transfers, with some of the funds even sent in cash wrapped in clothing or other merchandise.

In addition, Furlow-Smiles was said to have caused Facebook to do business with vendors operated by individuals willing to engage in the kickback scheme.

As evidence of the elaborate nature of her scheme, Furlow-Smiles created false expense reports and also approved phony and padded invoices for services supposedly provided to Facebook.

Furlow-Smiles also took actions that caused Facebook to issue payments to companies that did not engage in the kickback scheme, but which also had not performed work for the company, but rather for the benefit of others.

Specifically, her actions resulted in Facebook paying roughly $10,000 to an artist for specialty portraits, as well as another $18,000 in tuition to a preschool.

In a press release issued by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan declared, “This defendant 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.”

Buchanan went on, “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.”

Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta added, “Furlow-Smiles used lies and deceit to defraud both vendors and Facebook employees.”

“The FBI works hard to make sure greed like this doesn't pay off and those who commit fraud are held accountable,” Farley continued.

Sentencing for Furlow-Smiles is slated for March 19, with penalties to be determined by U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg.