updated 10:15 pm EDT, Tue March 26, 2013
Claimant allegedly presented forgeries as proof of Facebook ownership
Paul Ceglia, a claimant to the Facebook throne who once claimed half ownership of the social network using forged documents, has been handed a significant defeat in his efforts by a federal judge today. US Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio said in a final ruling that there is "clear and convincing evidence" that the 2003 contract that Foschio presented to the court as proof he owned 50 percent of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's share of Facebook is a "recently created fabrication." The judge added that the lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice.
Ceglia was charged in October with mail and wire fraud over what federal prosecutors and the US Postal Inspection Service determined was falsified information. Ceglia sued Facebook and its CEO in 2010 on the strength of the forged information, claiming that a 2003 contract he signed with Zuckerberg entitled him to a stake in the social network. Zuckerberg had previously done programming work for Ceglia while at Harvard.
In his lawsuit, Ceglia claimed that Zuckerberg shared his plans for a social networking site with him while working at StreetFax. He contended that their contract granted him part ownership in the project in exchange for a $1,000 investment. To build his case, Ceglia submitted what he said were emails from Zuckerberg that proved the pair had discussed the project that would eventually become Facebook. The "emails" were later determined to have been recently created using Microsoft Word.
Ceglia sought "a quick pay day based on a blatant forgery," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement announcing the criminal charges back in October. "Dressing up a fraud as a lawsuit does not immunize you from prosecution." Each charge of fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.