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Facebook’s former head of diversity at Facebook pleads guilty to $4M kickback scheme

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Facebook’s former diversity program manager pleaded guilty to stealing more than $4 million from the company through fake business deals, federal prosecutors reported last week. Barbara Furlow-Smiles, 38, was the lead strategist, global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement at Facebook while she conducted the scheme of receiving more than four million dollars in kickbacks.

Fox Business reports:

Furlow-Smiles committed the fraud by linking PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to credit cards given to her by Facebook and used those accounts to pay friends, relatives, former interns at a prior job, nannies, babysitters, a hairstylist and others for goods and services that were never provided to the company, a federal complaint states.

Some of the kickbacks were allegedly paid in cash sometimes wrapped in T-shirts and other items, the FBI said. She also had Facebook hire vendors that were owned and operated by friends and associates who also paid kickbacks, authorities said.

To conceal the fraud, Furlow-Smiles submitted false expense reports claiming the individuals performed work on Facebook programs and events, the DOJ said. After they were hired, Furlow-Smiles allegedly approved fake and inflated invoices. She received a portion of the money paid to the vendors under the table.

“Furlow-Smiles used lies and deceit to defraud both vendors and Facebook employees,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta office. “The FBI works hard to make sure greed like this doesn’t pay off and those who commit fraud are held accountable.”

From January 2017 through September 2021, Fulow-Smiles led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at Facebook and was responsible for developing and executing DEI initiatives, operations, and engagement programs.

Fox Business adds that Furlow-Smiles also misled Facebook into paying money to entities who didn’t provide kickbacks, including nearly $10,000 to an artist who created specialty portraits and more than $18,000 to a preschool, the complaint said.

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

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COVID-19

Internal docs show Amazon censored books on vaccinations due to pressure from Biden White House

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Vaccine

Recently released internal Amazon emails reveal the company caved to pressure from the Biden White House to suppress available vaccine information.

Provided to the House Judiciary Committee, the emails light on the extent of the Biden White House’s influence over the retail giant regarding vaccine-related content. The emails disclose a concerning narrative of pressure from government officials to suppress information deemed unfavorable to their agenda.

Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio took to Twitter to disclose the findings, stating that the emails reveal direct pressure from the White House on Amazon to censor books expressing views contrary to those endorsed by the administration. One email, albeit redacted, explicitly poses the question of whether the administration requested the removal of certain books, to which the answer was affirmative.

National Review highlights the successful efforts of the Biden administration in persuading Amazon to limit the visibility of titles skeptical of vaccine efficacy. White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response, Andrew Slavitt, expressed concerns about Amazon’s role in propagating what he termed as “misinformation” regarding vaccines. His emails illustrate a push for action to address what he perceived as a proliferation of dissenting views.

In response to Slavitt’s inquiries, Amazon initially hesitated to take overt action, fearing backlash from conservative media outlets. The company’s internal deliberations reflect a concern for public perception and the potential amplification of the issue if intervention were too conspicuous.

Despite initially refraining from manual intervention, Amazon eventually succumbed to pressure, engaging in discussions with White House officials. The company’s internal documents reveal deliberations on whether the administration sought outright book bans or alterations to search results. Amazon’s stance, as expressed in their meeting with the White House, emphasized the provision of diverse viewpoints and the distinction between online retail and social media platforms.

 

 

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