Dude Who Tried to Shake Down Mark Zuckerberg Caught in Ecuador After Three Years on the Run

By Tom McKay on at

A few years ago, a man named Paul Ceglia filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, claiming that the two signed a software development contract in 2003 with provisions conveniently giving Ceglia retroactive co-ownership of the site. Authorities later alleged that Ceglia, an upstate New York wood pellet salesman who has had run-ins with the law regarding everything from possession of 400 grams of magic mushrooms to alleged wood pellet fraud, forged that document. He was clever enough to give a resulting ankle bracelet the slip while awaiting fraud charges in 2015, and has been on the run with his family since.

Well, until now. Bloomberg reported that the 45-year-old Ceglia has been taken into custody in Ecuador after investigators tailed his wife back to their home-away-from-home:

Ceglia was arrested Thursday morning, U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick. Officers identified Ceglia’s wife, Iasia, then followed her home and made the arrest, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ceglia’s lawyer in the criminal case, Robert Ross Fogg, said he hasn’t heard from his client or from law enforcement officials about the arrest.

“If this is true, then I’m relieved,” Fogg said. “I am hoping that everyone is safe and that everybody gets back safely.”

Ceglia will appear in court in Quito, the capital, within 24 hours for a hearing on extraditing him to the U.S., Berman said in the letter.

Bloomberg noted that to get to Ecuador, Ceglia “skipped out on a $250,000 (£194,000) bond guaranteed by his brother and parents,” which seems like a shit move. But hey, maybe he thought he could pay them back with all the money he was still somehow going to get out of Zuckerberg. In 2016, Ceglia emailed Bloomberg to let them know he was doing just great, saying religion and a “determination to get justice has inspired me to keep going.” He also claimed his trial would expose the involvement of In-Q-Tel, a CIA-funded venture capital firm, in Facebook’s early development.

According to Reuters, Ceglia’s criminal defence attorney Robert Ross Fogg said that he believes there is still a “strong case” for his client’s defence, and that there “truly was a contract” between Ceglia and the Facebook chief. OK.

If convicted, Ceglia could spent up to 20 years in prison on the original charges alone, though prosecutors are likely to tack on additional charges related to his flight from the courts. [Bloomberg/Reuters via the Verge]

Featured photo: Andrew Harnik (AP)