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Paul Ceglia – the man who tried to claim that he owned half of Facebook – was arrested on Friday and charged with mail and wire fraud that could see him spending 20 years behind bars.
Ceglia famously claimed to have suddenly remembered that he owned half of Facebook, a claim that the company’s spent years fighting off. And, says the Justice Department, he doctored, fabricated, and destroyed evidence to support this false claim.
“When Mr Ceglia allegedly decided to take advantage of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, he underestimated the resolve of the Postal Inspection Service to bring him to justice for illegal use of the US Mail,” says USPIS inspector-in-charge Randall C Till.
Back in April 2003, Ceglia hired mark Zuckerberg to carry out some programming work for his online business, StreetFax.com. By 2011, though, he was claiming that as part of the deal Zuckerberg had promised him 50 percent of the project that eventually became Facebook.
To support this claim, Ceglia produced a contract that, according to the complaint, had a faked first page – rather badly faked, according to accounts. Emails that Ceglia claimed confirmed the deal with Zuckerberg turned out also to be fabricated – and a search of one of Ceglia’s hard drives uncovered the real contract, which had no reference to Facebook at all.
“As alleged, by marching into federal court for a quick payday based on a blatant forgery, Paul Ceglia has bought himself another day in federal court for attempting a multi-billion dollar fraud against Facebook and its CEO,” says Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara.
“Ceglia’s alleged conduct not only constitutes a massive fraud attempt, but also an attempted corruption of our legal system through the manufacture of false evidence. That is always intolerable. Dressing up a fraud as a lawsuit does not immunize you from prosecution.”