Former executive of Meta diversity program pleads guilty to stealing $4M from company

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Thursday, December 28, 2023
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ATLANTA -- The former head of Meta's diversity program has pleaded guilty to stealing $4 million from the company.

Barbara Furlow-Smiles was the global diversity executive at Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, Inc. She used company credit cards to pay family members and associates, who then returned the money to her, according to the U.S Attorney's Office.

She held her leadership position in the company from January 2017 to September 2021. Her role gave her access to the company credit cards and authority over company-related expenses.

"This defendant abused a position of a 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," U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a news release. "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."

Charges made by Furlow-Smiles using company money included a $10,000 payment to an artist for specialty portraits and payments over $18,000 for preschool tuition.

The payments were sent via PayPal, Venmo and Cash App accounts. Furlow-Smiles covered up the fraudulent charges with fake expense reports claiming the money went towards Facebook programs and events, which never existed, according to prosecutors.

Furlow-Smiles also approved onboarding of vendors which were operated by her friends, and they paid her kickbacks, authorities said.

"Furlow-Smiles used lies and deceit to defraud both vendors and Facebook employees," said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. "The FBI works hard to make sure greed like this doesn't pay off and those who commit fraud are held accountable."

Furlow-Smiles lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and is scheduled to appear in court March 19 for sentencing.

The FBI continues to investigate the case with the cooperation of Meta, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.