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Former Nike and Facebook DEI Manager Bags 5-Year Prison Term for $5 Million Theft

A picture of  Barbara Furlow-Smiles
Source: Pinterest

Former Nike and Facebook DEI Manager Bags 5-Year Prison Term for $5 Million Theft

Source: Pinterest

Former DEI manager Barbara Furlow-Smiles received a five-year and three-month prison sentence. She worked for Nike and Facebook. She admitted to stealing more than $5 million to fund her opulent lifestyle, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced the punishment. 


She is going to federal jail for her crimes after admitting to stealing $5 million through kickback schemes she set up at the companies.

Furlow-Smiles To Report to Prison

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A federal judge in Atlanta punished Furlow-Smiles, a Marietta resident with an 8-year-old daughter and spouse. Additionally, she was mandated by District Judge Steven Grimberg to reimburse Facebook for $4.98 million and Nike for another $121,000. 


According to Meta, Furlow-Smiles, who must report to prison by July 22, 2024, was the subject of law enforcement cooperation during the company’s inquiry.

Work Duties and Obligations

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Furlow-Smiles, who was sentenced to five years and three months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, was the athletic apparel company’s senior director of DEI. 


Her duties included hosting DEI events, creating strategies, and supporting DEI initiatives. She also had primary responsibility for designing events in New York.

Fraudulent Scheme

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The 38-year-old Furlow-Smiles staged events, invoices, and business dealings, including a Juneteenth celebration, to enrich herself.


As a DEI executive at Facebook, Furlow-Smiles blatantly betrayed her position of trust to embezzle millions from the business through a scheme including phony invoices, fraudulent vendors, and cash kickbacks, according to the court filing.


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Furlow-Smiles Strategic Plans

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U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan claimed that after being fired from Facebook, she blatantly carried out fraud as a DEI leader at Nike, where she embezzled an additional six figures from their diversity program. 


She planned a complex strategy to cheat two of her employers for personal gain, and the repercussions of that decision are reflected in her prison term.

When the Fraud Started

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In a sentencing memo, the prosecution stated that Furlow-Smiles started the scam shortly after joining the company (Facebook) in 2017.


Also, an investigation revealed she had deceived people who trusted and were close to her, including former interns who looked up to her as a mentor. After that, she was let go and began working for Nike.


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Nike Reports

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According to the prosecutor’s memo, Nike reported to prosecutors that Furlow-Smiles was entrusted with leading the company and would uphold the company’s core value of “Doing the Right Thing.” 


To say that she betrayed their confidence in her would be an understatement, as Furlow-Smiles’s fraud devastated and betrayed the trust of the employees under her management.

Effects on Other Workers

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According to sentencing documents, the social media business stated that her offenses caused pain for her coworkers, while Nike stated that her total lack of responsibility or regret was deeply disheartening. 


She worked for Facebook, a Meta subsidiary, as a lead strategist and worldwide head of diversity engagement and employee resource groups. She was not the chief executive officer for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Facebook.

How Was the Fraud Committed?

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She allegedly committed the fraud by connecting her PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to credit cards that Facebook had given her. 


She then allegedly used those accounts to pay friends, family, former interns from a previous job, nannies, babysitters, a hairstylist, and other people for products and services that the company had never received.

Furlow-Smiles Abused Her Access

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According to the report, she paid many people, including her friends and family for goods and services that were never generated by Facebook by abusing her access to corporate credit cards and her authority to authorize invoices for approved vendors. 


Furlow-Smiles would receive the money back in cash or through account transfers from the partners, the majority of whom were allegedly ignorant that the monies originated from Facebook. The federal agents observed that the money was occasionally brought to Furlow-Smiles in the form of T-shirts or other products.


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Misuse of Funds

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Furlow-Smiles went beyond corporate theft by using the fraudulently obtained monies for personal needs like paying an artist for specialty pictures worth over $10,000 and more than $18,000 in preschool tuition. 


These costs demonstrate how personally motivated her misappropriation of business funds was.

Greed and Dishonesty

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Attorney Ryan K. Buchana claims that as a result of her dishonesty, she not only lost out on a lucrative job but also faced jail time for her excessive greed. 


His remarks highlight the seriousness of Furlow-Smiles’ deeds and the betrayal of confidence she perpetrated on her employers.

Caution for All Organizations and Businesses

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The corporate society is still in shock at Furlow-Smiles’s level of audacity and deception, even as she gets used to life behind bars. 


Businesses and enterprises should take note of this. It emphasizes the necessity of strict controls and ongoing oversight of financial operations in big businesses to stop such incidents from happening again.

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