A former diversity program manager at Facebook has pleaded guilty to defrauding Mark Zuckerberg’s company of more than $4 million through a sophisticated kickback scheme.
The New York Post reports that Barbara Furlow-Smiles, who was responsible for leading Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives at Facebook, has admitted to orchestrating a complex fraud scheme that cost the social media giant more than $4 million. According to the Justice Department, Furlow-Smiles engaged in fraudulent activities between January 2016 and September 2021.
Furlow-Smiles, as the global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement, exploited her position to live an extravagant lifestyle across various states. She manipulated company funds by creating fake business deals and receiving kickbacks. The funds were misappropriated for personal use, including payments to friends and relatives who were falsely represented as vendors providing non-existent goods and services to Facebook.
The scheme involved multiple individuals, including former interns, a university tutor, a hair stylist, babysitters, and nannies, all of whom funneled kickbacks to Furlow-Smiles. It remains unclear whether any of these associates will face charges related to the fraud.
To avoid detection, Furlow-Smiles submitted false expense reports, claiming these individuals were legitimate vendors at Facebook events. The fraudulent activities extended to paying for services and products never delivered to the company, such as specialty portraits and preschool services.
U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said, “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.”
In a statement, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta said: “We are cooperating with law enforcement on the case regarding this former program manager, and we will continue to do so.”