“Serve Time Behind Bars For Her Excessive Greed”: Barbara Furlow-Smiles Used Position As DEI Leader To Steal $4.9M From Facebook and $120K From Nike To Fund Lavish Lifestyle

Everybody has a price. 

For former Facebook and Nike diversity manager Barbara Furlow-Smiles, the cost of her career, reputation and future was $5 million that she stole from the companies that employed her. Now she’s been sentenced to five years in prison for wire fraud and a promising career is down the drain. 

Attorneys claim Furlow-Smiles used fraudulent vendors, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks to fund her luxurious and lavish lifestyle in various states, including California, Georgia and Oregon. 

Barbara Furlow-Smiles abused her position as diversity leader at Facebook and Nike to fabricate charges and bogus invoices to steal $4.9 million from Facebook and over $120,000 from Nike. (Photo: Getty Images

How Much Money Did Barbara Furlow-Smiles Steal From Facebook and Nike?

Over a six-year time period, Furlow-Smiles used fabricated charges and bogus invoices to steal $4.9 million from Facebook and over $120,000 from Nike. 

The sentence was announced on Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said.

“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 added.

In an elaborate and brazen scheme that began while working as a diversity, equity and inclusion executive at Facebook from 2017-2021, Furlow-Smiles had access to the company’s credit cards and she could also make purchases and approve invoices for Facebook’s vendors. 

She wasted no time instituting criminal schemes as she reportedly used her position to pay friends, family, and other associates for items and services that were never given to Facebook, according to the statement. She cleverly hid the phony expenses by filing counterfeit expenditure reports.

Once these people got paid, during the wash process they returned most of it to Furlow-Smiles in cash via Federal Express or hand-to-hand according to the district attorney’s office. 

Furlow-Smiles Had Facebook and Nike Funding Her Lavish Lifestyle

The bogus vendors included family and friends, former interns, nannies and babysitters, hairstylists and according to documents, even her university tutor.

Furlow-Smiles paid more than $18K in preschool tuition and a reported $10K to an artist for a special shoot. 

After getting fired from Facebook, she continued her criminal activity in her role as DEI leader at Nike, “thinking she was untouchable,” Buchanan said in a press release.

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

Furlow-Smiles was also ordered to pay Facebook close to $5 million and Nike about $120,000 in restitution.

Women’s Sports and Nike Is Entering Unprecedented Time: Caitlin Clark Effect, Paris Olympics

What a time for Furlow-Smiles to lose her position as DEI leader at Nike. Women’s sports overall, from the grass-roots levels to the pros, is on the rise. The issues WNBA players in particular face every day, from fighting for charter flights and against lower salaries than their male counterparts to imploring corporations to support athletes of color the same as their white counterparts, would be right in Furlow-Smiles’ wheelhouse. 

Issues where she could make a difference and use her power to empower other women. 

With Caitlin Clark’s mega $28 million deal and A’ja Wilson’s recent shoe deal and the record-breaking viewership that is blessing the WNBA and is sure to carry on through the Olympics this summer — helping to highlight other extraordinary female athletes in other team sports and Track and Field and gymnastics — the Nike brand will be bigger and bolder than ever. 

Such an opportunity missed because of short-sighted thinking. 

Few Black people get the opportunity to work in such pristine and trusted ranks of billion-dollar corporations and be in charge of setting the direction for a plan of diversity that can benefit people of color all over the globe. It’s a shame that Furlow-Smiles saw these lucrative opportunities as mere steppingstones to fraud, theft and presenting a lifestyle that she truly couldn’t afford at the time. 

Nike has been criticized for its lack of minority hiring at high executive and influential positions. Furlow-Smiles didn’t do anything to help advance the cause.

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