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On the run: Paul Ceglia

A man accused of faking an ownership stake in Facebook to justify a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against its founder Mark Zuckerberg has vanished.

Paul Ceglia, who was under house arrest in New York state pending his May 4 trial, jumped bail by slicing off an electronic monitoring device and creating a crude contraption to make it seem as though he was moving around inside his home, US authorities say.

Ceglia’s wife and two young sons and his family’s Jack Russell terrier, Buddy, have also disappeared.

“I’m confident in our team up here,” US Marshal Charles F. Salina said.

“He’s got to get lucky every day, we’ve got to get lucky once.”

Ceglia’s federal lawsuit said he gave Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard University at the time, $US1000 ($A1300) in startup money in exchange for 50 per cent of the future company.

The timing device.
The timing device.

But a judge dismissed his claims and prosecutors filed fraud charges after a forensic analysis of his computers and Harvard’s email archive determined he had altered an unrelated contract and falsified emails to make it appear Zuckerberg had promised him a half-share.

Ceglia, who pleaded not guilty, now faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of mail fraud and wire fraud.

He went missing last weekend but it’s difficult to say when because he hung his electronic ankle bracelet on a motor-driven device that stretched to the ceiling and moved around, prosecutors explained in papers filed with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

The contraption used to keep the ankle bracelet moving.

A missing-persons report was filed on Ceglia’s wife, Iasia Ceglia, and his two sons, 10-year-old Leenan and 11-year-old Joseffinn

Ceglia’s sister-in-law, Brianna Caster, used a Facebook page for her photography business in Newport Beach, California, to urge anyone who sees the wife and kids to call local authorities.

“To be honest, we’re not surprised at what he’s done,” she said by phone.

“What we’re shocked about is that our sister would disappear.”

No one was home on Sunday when state troopers knocked on Ceglia’s door. Armed with a search warrant, the US Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force returned that evening to the rural home in Wellsville, southeast of Buffalo, and busted in after hearing a mechanical noise inside.

Prosecutors filed their appeals court papers in a bid to nullify Ceglia’s attempt to throw out his criminal charges.

Ceglia said they unjustly stemmed from the claims he made in his 2010 lawsuit, which he said were based on a software development contract he signed with Zuckerberg in 2003.

A search of Ceglia’s hard drives uncovered the real April 28, 2003, contract, which Ceglia had emailed to a lawyer in March 2004, years before his suit against Facebook and Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg, a likely witness at Ceglia’s trial, said he didn’t even come up with the idea for Facebook until months after he responded to Ceglia’s online help-wanted ad and signed a contract agreeing to create some software for him.



Henry Sapiecha

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