Facebook fraud | Former diversity manager admits stealing millions from the company to fund lavish lifestyle

Former diversity manager admits stealing millions from the company to fund lavish lifestyle

Barbara Furlow-Smiles, a former Global Diversity Executive at Facebook, has pleaded guilty to orchestrating a sophisticated scheme that defrauded the social media giant of more than $4million (£3.1million).

Furlow-Smiles, 38, served as Lead Strategist, Global Head of Employee Resource Groups and Diversity Engagement at Facebook from January 2017 to September 2021.

According to lawyers from the US Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Georgia, Furlow-Smiles exploited her position of trust to cheat and defraud the company.

She allegedly used fraudulent invoices to charge Facebook for goods and services that were never provided, subsequently receiving kickbacks and funding a luxurious lifestyle in California and Georgia.

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US Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan condemned Furlow-Smiles, as reported by the New York Times, stating: "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 accused her of orchestrating an elaborate criminal scheme involving relatives, friends and other associates in her fraudulent activities.

Furlow-Smiles' scheme operated on two fronts. Firstly, she linked PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards, using them to pay friends, relatives and associates for purported goods and services.

These individuals, however, never provided any services to the company. To conceal the fraudulent charges, Furlow-Smiles submitted fake expense reports claiming her associates had delivered merchandise or marketing services.

To complete the deception, her associates would send most of the money back to Furlow-Smiles either in cash or through transfers to accounts in her or her husband's name. To further hide the transactions, associates sometimes bundled cash in items like t-shirts or paid each other as directed by Furlow-Smiles.

The former executive also manipulated Facebook into onboarding individuals who paid her kickbacks, including friends, relatives, former interns, nannies, babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor.

Furlow-Smiles went as far as having Facebook make payments for her benefits in unconventional ways, such as nearly $10,000 (£7.8k) to an artist for specialty portraits and over $18,000 (£14.1k) to a preschool for tuition.

Furlow-Smiles is scheduled for sentencing on March 19 before US District Judge Steven D. Grimberg.



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