Facebook's Former Head of DEI Pleads Guilty to Swindling the Company Out of $4 Million

(AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Here’s one case where no one can deny that corporate DEI was a scam. A former head of DEI programs for Facebook has pleaded guilty to swindling the company out of $4 million, not including whatever money they were spending on her actual salary.


Barbara Furlow-Smiles, who served as lead strategist and global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement at Facebook, used the stolen funds to live an extravagant lifestyle that spanned from California to Georgia, prosecutors said.

From approximately January 2017 to September 2021, Furlow-Smiles led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at Facebook and was responsible for developing and executing DEI initiatives, operations, and engagement programs,” according to the DOJ.

According to a DOJ press release, Smiles actually had two different scams going. The first involved paying people she knew for fake work they hadn’t done. These friends would then deliver the bulk of that money back to her in cash.

First, Furlow-Smiles linked PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards and used those accounts to pay friends, relatives, and other associates for goods and services purportedly provided to Facebook. But these individuals did not provide goods or services to the company. Most of them did not know that the payments came from Facebook. To conceal the bogus charges on her Facebook credit cards, Furlow-Smiles submitted fraudulent expense reports, falsely claiming that her associates or their businesses performed work on programs and events for Facebook, such as providing swag or marketing services when, in fact, they had not done so.

After these associates received payments from Facebook, they returned most of the money to Furlow-Smiles. They paid these kickbacks in cash and through transfers to accounts held in her husband’s and others’ names. Associates paid cash kickbacks in person and by Federal Express or mail, sometimes wrapping the cash in other items, such as T-shirts. To further conceal her actions, Furlow-Smiles also directed associates to pay one another, or others who she owed money.


The second scam was the more traditional one in which she directed actual work to friends and family but at inflated prices. Those people then paid her kickbacks for giving them the work.

Second, Furlow-Smiles caused Facebook to onboard several vendors that were owned and operated by friends and associates who also paid her kickbacks. After Facebook approved contracts for these vendors, Furlow-Smiles approved purchase requisitions for these purported vendors to work for Facebook. Furlow-Smiles then approved fraudulent and inflated invoices to pay the vendors. After Facebook paid the invoices, Furlow-Smiles directed the vendors to return a portion of the money to her.

Furlow-Smiles recruited numerous individuals to receive money and pay kickbacks as part of the scheme. These individuals included friends, relatives, former interns from a prior job, nannies and babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor.

This couple lived quite the life. She and her husband launched a line of fancy face shields as a side hustle in early 2021. Those were promoted on The Breakfast Club radio show. There’s also a page on this site about their marriage renewal which was held in South Africa a few months later. The couple dressed in traditional Zulu costumes for the ceremony. They seemed to be living the dream. Just two months ago Furlow-Smiles announced a new children’s book based on travels through 18 different countries with her daughter:


Her latest endeavor, the children’s book “When Imani Smiles in France” was born from the experiences she and her husband, Ernest Smiles, gathered while traveling through more than 18 countries with their daughter, Imani. Witnessing Imani’s growth — her burgeoning independence, boundless curiosity, and an innate compassion during these voyages became a precious gift they wanted to share with the world.”…

“This book holds particular significance for Spelman College and the current generation as it embodies the inspiring journey of a Black woman, a proud Spelman alum, and her Black family exploring the world,” said Furlow-Smiles.”

But it turns out the image of this black power couple was built on, as an FBI agent involved in the case put it, “lies and deceit.” Furlow-Smiles’ sentencing is scheduled for March 2024.

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