Facebook executive stole $4m from company

Barbara Furlow-Smiles is frowning today. The tech executive pleaded guilty to stealing $4m from the company and faces prison when sentenced in March.

Furlow-Smiles participated in an outrageous scam at massive scale in open view of everyone around her. But beyond her job duties at Facebook, she was also using the company's funds to pay for personal expenses and luxuries.

Furlow-Smiles' "scheme" was to link her company credit cards to PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App, then use those cards to pay others for services never performed, Buchanan says. Friends, relatives, and associates who received the payments would then return some of the money to Furlow-Smiles as a kickback, according to Buchanan's Office. Investigators say Furlow-Smiles would create inflated invoices to pay them, then those vendors would return a portion of the payment to Furlow-Smiles.

The usual failure mode of this scam is greed: they stop paying someone to turn up to do the unnecessary work, stop having the printer supplies delivered, and one of the many co-conspirators gets upset. The Department of Justice press release lays out the details.

"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," said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan in the statement.

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. She also caused Facebook to make payments for her benefit to others who did not pay kickbacks. For example, Furlow-Smiles caused Facebook to pay nearly $10,000 to an artist for specialty portraits and more than $18,000 to a preschool for tuition.

In total, Furlow-Smiles stole more than $4 million from Facebook based on fictitious charges and fraudulent invoices for which goods and services were never provided to the company. She used the money to live a luxury lifestyle in California and Georgia.