Facebook blasts Paul Ceglia, asks federal court to speed up case
Facebook escalated its legal fight against an upstate New York man who claims he's entitled to half of Mark Zuckerberg's multibillion-dollar stake in the social networking company on Thursday by asking a judge to take the unusual step of speeding up the fact-finding phase of the case.
In a filing in federal court in Buffalo, N.Y., Facebook said its forensic experts have determined that Paul Ceglia doctored a 2003 contract and fabricated emails he said he exchanged with Zuckerberg. According to the experts cited in the filing, the contract is a "cut-and-paste job" and the emails are "complete fabrications."
Ceglia cited the emails in an amended complaint he filed in April. He said the emails supported his claim that he and Zuckerberg had formed a partnership. But he did not provide original copies.
According to the Facebook filing, Zuckerberg has sworn under oath that he did not write or receive any of the alleged emails. Facebook said it found email correspondence on Zuckerberg's Harvard account that contradicts Ceglia. Its forensic experts examined 175 emails the two men exchanged and none of them mentioned Facebook.
Facebook also hired private investigators to dig into Ceglia's past and says it unearthed what it alleges are fraudulent land schemes.
Ceglia's original claims were met with skepticism because of his checkered past, which includes a conviction for hallucinogenic mushrooms in 1997 and more recent fraud allegations involving his wood-pellet business.
"This motion confirms, through expert testimony and other powerful evidence, what we have said all along: This case is an egregious fraud," said Orin Snyder, a Gibson Dunn partner who is counsel for Zuckerberg and Facebook.
Robert Brownlie, a lawyer for Ceglia, could not be immediately reached for comment.
For years Zuckerberg has battled allegations from fellow Harvard students Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss that they, not Zuckerberg, came up with the idea for Facebook. Now he's wrestling with another person making claims to the billions in wealth he has created with Facebook, which has been valued at more than $50 billion.
Facebook concedes that Zuckerberg did some programming work for Ceglia in 2003 to earn money while he was a freshman at Harvard. But the company denies Zuckerberg gave Ceglia a stake in Facebook.
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Credit: Tony Avelar / Bloomberg News