December 15, 2023

Former Facebook Diversity Strategist Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $4M

In a startling revelation, Barbara Furlow-Smiles, previously renowned for her role as a global diversity strategist at Facebook, has pled guilty to wire fraud charges. Her conviction comes after siphoning over $4 million from the tech giant, purportedly to support an extravagant lifestyle across California and Georgia.

Furlow-Smiles, who significantly contributed to Facebook’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives between 2017 and mid-2021, orchestrated a complex fraud. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta detailed how she exploited her position to funnel funds through fictitious vendors and bogus charges, culminating in substantial cash kickbacks.

This fraudulent operation extended to various personal associates, including friends, relatives, former interns, nannies, and even a university tutor. These individuals allegedly received payments for non-existent goods and services, part of which was then redirected to Furlow-Smiles.

Some of her deceptive practices involved directing significant sums for unrelated personal expenses. Notably, $10,000 was allocated to an artist for specialty portraits, and over $18,000 was used for preschool tuition, again under the guise of company expenses.

Additionally, Furlow-Smiles linked multiple payment platforms, such as PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App, to her Facebook credit cards. These were utilized to further distribute funds under the pretext of payment for services rendered to Facebook.

Her guilty plea was entered in the Atlanta federal court. U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan condemned her actions, highlighting the damage caused to the integrity of Facebook’s DEI mission. Her efforts defrauded the company and significantly undermined the critical role and trust inherent in her position.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has extended full cooperation to the authorities during the investigation.

Furlow-Smiles, now residing in Atlanta, awaits her sentencing, which is scheduled for March 19. She remains free on a $5,000 bond. As the tech community and Meta grapple with this breach of trust, a spokesperson for Meta affirmed their ongoing cooperation with law enforcement. Lance Clarke, representing Furlow-Smiles, has not made a public statement regarding the case.

Michael Berhane

Co-founder and CEO of & Also the co-host of the #Techish podcast! Full Stack JavaScript developer by trade.