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Former Nike Manager Charged With Fraud After Stealing $5 Million

Former Nike Manager Charged with Fraud After Stealing $5 Million

former director of diversity, Barbara Furlow-Smiles, has been sentenced to five years in prison after she stole over $5 million from both Nike and Meta while she worked for the companies. Furlow-Smiles is the latest in a series of crime scandals to rock Nike in recent years, as , ex-VP of North America, stepped down from her role in 2021 after she was caught using her privilege at the company to aid her son’s resale business, and shortly after, Errol Andam, former marketing manager, was charged for embezzling over $1.5 million from Nike.

Furlow-Smiles mainly stole from Facebook when she was working as their diversity program manager between 2017 and 2021. Since she had to organise diversity, equity and inclusion programs, she had access to company credit cards and the authority to submit purchase requisitions and approve invoices for vendors. She took advantage of this position in three different ways, the first being through ‘cash kickbacks’, which is where she would pay friends and family money through Facebook credit cards, put through fraudulent expense reports, and then have those friends and family kick back the money to her, mainly in cash. The second way was by onboarding vendors that were owned by her friends and family and have them send her fraudulent invoices before having the money again sent back to her. The third and final way she embezzled money from Facebook was by outright charging her personal expenses to the company's credit card, including almost $10,000 to an artist for portraits and more than $18,000 for her child’s preschool tuition. In total across the nearly five years she worked for Meta, Furlow-Smiles stole over $4.9 million. Once Meta found out, she was terminated from her employment and she got job at Nike two months later.

Despite her termination from Meta, Furlow-Smiles continued her fraudulent scheme in her role at Nike, stealing over $120,000 in her year there. It’s unclear whether Nike were just quicker to catch on than Facebook or if the latter company filed charges against Furlow-Smiles and that was how they found out. Nonetheless, her scheme unravelled big time, and she has now been sentenced to five years and three months in prison, along with three years of supervised release. She is also of course ordered to pay restitution: $4,981,783,58 to Facebook and $121,054.50 to Nike.

In a letter to the judge, Furlow-Smiles stated, ‘I blew it big time’. One of the disheartening aspects about this case is that her roles were focused on being a voice for minority groups and yet her actions have ‘added fuel to the fire of disengagement and attack of DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] efforts’.

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