A former Facebook and Nike executive was sentenced to 5 years in prison for embezzling more than $5 million from diversity and inclusion programs

The judge determined that Barbara Furlow-Smiles must also pay restitution for the money she stole from the companies.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles, former Diversity Manager at Facebook and Nike, was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for stealing more than $5 million intended for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

The sentence was handed down by Judge Steven D. Grimberg after Furlow-Smiles, 38, pleaded guilty to wire fraud late last year.

Judge Grimberg ordered Furlow-Smiles to several years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, in addition to paying restitution of nearly $5 million to Facebook and another $121,000 to Nike for money she stole from the companies she worked for.

“Furlow-Smiles shamelessly violated her position of trust as a DEI executive at Facebook to steal millions from the company utilizing a scheme involving fraudulent vendors, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks (…) Her prison sentence reflects the consequences of her decision to orchestrate an intricate scheme to defraud two of her employers for personal profit,” Atlanta U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan explained following the sentencing.

The Furlow-Smiles modus operandi

The former Facebook and Nike manager executed an elaborate scheme involving fraudulent suppliers, fake invoices and cash kickbacks to perpetrate the fraud. She started her plan in 2017, shortly after joining Facebook. While at Meta's company, she leveraged her authority to submit purchase requests and approve invoices for authorized Facebook vendors, in addition to her access to company credit cards.

Furlow-Smiles used these cards to pay friends, family and others for goods and services that were never delivered. She gave a percentage to her acquaintances and kept most of the money. After being fired from Facebook in 2021, she began working for Nike in November of that same year, and from then until February 2023, she served as senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion, where she carried out a similar theft scheme.

“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 (...) As a result, she not only threw away a lucrative career, but will serve time behind bars for her excessive greed,” Buchanan said.