$5 Million Fraud Lands Former Facebook and Nike Diversity Chief in Prison for 5 Years

$5 Million Fraud Lands Former Facebook and Nike Diversity Chief in Prison for 5 Years

Federal prosecutors said that a former diversity manager at Nike and Facebook received a five-year and three-month prison sentence for embezzling more than $5 million from the firms that had been designated for DEI projects.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles, a resident of Georgia, stole more than $4.9 million from Facebook “utilizing a scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks,” according to a statement released by Atlanta U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan after she entered a guilty plea to wire fraud in December.

“After being terminated from Facebook, she brazenly continued the fraud as a DEI leader at Nike, where she stole another six-figure sum from their diversity program,” Buchanan stated.

According to Buchanan’s office, which had requested a judicial sentence of six and a half years for Furlow-Smiles, 38, she used the money she stole “to fund a luxury lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon.”

She was the global leader of diversity engagement and employee resource groups at Facebook, a Meta subsidiary, as well as a lead strategist. She did not lead Facebook’s initiatives in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The prosecution claimed that during her time at Facebook, she connected her PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her credit cards. She then paid friends, family, and other people with those accounts for allegedly unfulfilled orders for alleged corporate products and services.

According to the prosecution, “the vast majority of the money” that was given to those other individuals was returned to Furlow-Smiles.

According to a sentencing letter from the prosecution, Furlow-Smiles started the scam shortly after she started working for the company in 2017. An investigation revealed that Furlow-Smiles had “manipulated individuals who were close to, and trusted her, including former interns,” who saw her as a mentor.

Furlow-Smiles served as senior director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Nike from November 2022 until February 2023 following her dismissal from Facebook in the middle of 2021.

Prosecutors claimed that she carried out a theft plan there that was comparable to what she did at Facebook.

Furlow-Smiles, a Marietta resident who has an 8-year-old daughter with her spouse, was given a sentence on Monday in a federal court in Atlanta. In addition, District Judge Steven Grimberg mandated that she reimburse Facebook for $4.98 million and Nike for another $121,000.

As stated in the sentencing statement, Furlow-Smiles stole money from the firm, but Meta also lost more than $4.5 million as a result of having to detect and investigate her fraud plan, in addition to other expenses including attorney’s fees.

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Prosecutors recalled in their letter that “the harm from [Furlow-Smiles’] criminal conduct cannot be measured purely in financial terms,” as noted by Meta. “Her ‘crimes also resulted in anguish amongst those employees that worked closely with her.”

She was “entrusted as a leader for [the] company, that she would embody the value of ‘Doing the Right Thing,’ which is one of NIKE’s key maxims,” Nike informed the prosecutors, according to the prosecutor’s note.

“As Nike explains, ‘to say that Ms. Furlow-Smiles violated our trust would be an understatement. The fraud committed by Ms. Furlow-Smiles violated the trust of and devastated the employees who managed and worked with her.'”

Furlow-Smiles’ attorney Lance Clarke remarked, “She’s a great mother and a good person.”

“When you’re standing in court, you read the charges, but a lot of time the charges don’t make up the full totality of a human being,” Clarke stated.


With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.