BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Paul Ceglia of Wellsville claimed he made a deal with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that entitled him to half of the social networking website.
But federal prosecutors say Ceglia made the whole thing up in a case that wasted taxpayer dollars. Ceglia was arrested Friday morning, just two days after arriving back in the United Stated from Ireland.
In July 2010, Ceglia claimed a contract entitled him to majority ownership of Facebook. The criminal complaint against Ceglia says he had entered in a contract with Zuckerberg in April of 2003, to perform certain programming work in exchange for a fee.
Ceglia called his arrest an outrage as he was led away in handcuffs by U.S. Postal inspectors in downtown Buffalo.
"There's nothing that these people won't stop at," he said.
READ THE FULL COMPLAINT | United States vs. Paul Ceglia
The 39-year-old is now accused of perpetuating a "multi-billion dollar scheme" to defraud Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He has been charged with mail and wire fraud.
Ceglia's father, Carmen, called it a "hatchjob" by attorneys for Facebook.
"Just more bad publicity to try to make it look bad for Paul. We figured they were going to throw stuff at us, and that was why he was in Ireland because they were throwing stuff at us," Carmen said.
The U.S. government claims that Ceglia filed a federal lawsuit falsely claiming to have been promised a 50-percent share in Facebook, and then doctored, fabricated and destroyed evidence to support his claim.
While there was a contract for programming work between Ceglia and Zuckerberg, the first page made no mention of Facebook or any ownership agreement, according to authorities. But the documents Ceglia provided in the lawsuit make mention of Facebook, months before Zuckerberg says the idea had even been conceived.
Ceglia has maintained all along that he did have an ownership stake in the website. But government prosecutors say the claim is entirely false.
Ceglia could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted. He remains in federal custody tonight, but could be released on bail Monday.
In a statement sent to media, the government outlined their evidence against Ceglia.
- A search of one of Ceglia's hard drives uncovered a copy of the real April 28, 2003 contract, which Ceglia had emailed to an attorney in March 2004, years before his lawsuit against Facebook and Zuckerberg. Page one of the real contract does not refer to Facebook in any fashion, let alone give Ceglia a 50% interest in it.
- The spacing, columns, and margins of page one of the alleged contract are different from the spacing, columns, and margins of page two of the alleged contract. No such differences exist as between the pages of the real contract.
- A review of Harvard University's email servers reveals that none of the purported emails appears in Zuckerberg's email account as of February 2012 or in Harvard's backup tapes for Zuckerberg's emails as they existed in October 2010 or November 2003. The emails between Zuckerberg and Ceglia that do exist in Zuckerberg's email account do not show any discussion of Facebook and, contrary to Ceglia's claim, show that Zuckerberg was asking Ceglia for money he was owed in 2004, not offering to give Ceglia money.
- A forensic expert examined Ceglia's hard drives and other electronic media and found evidence that in February 2011, Ceglia deleted files relating to the April 2003 contract with Zuckerberg and replaced them with new files that supported his lawsuit but that were backdated to make it appear as if those the files had in fact been created in 2003 and 2004. Further, a CD Rom revealed that Ceglia had done test runs on fabricating some of the documents, including the purported emails, upon which his lawsuit relied.
- Zuckerberg and another of Facebook's founders have said that the idea for Facebook did not arise until months after the April 2003 contract purportedly giving Ceglia an interest in Facebook.
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