A businessman who claims Mark Zuckerberg scammed him out of a $2,000 controlling interest in Facebook has amended his federal lawsuit, in an attempt to cash in on a company now valued at $65 billion.
Paul Ceglia, a New York businessman with a sketchy past, says he owns half of Facebook after having paid Zuckerberg $2,000 to fund the site. In his new complaint, he alleges that Zuckerberg tried to weasel out of the contract by lying about how well the site was doing.
Ceglia is now offering up what he calls damning e-mails in pursuit of what he says is rightfully his, after agreements and understandings with a young Zuckerberg. Some might think it’s all a sour-grapes-grab in the fashion of a failed suit by the Winklevoss twins, who also crossed paths with Zuckerberg at Harvard in the earliest days, and whose legal attempt to prove they were wronged was snidely dismissed by a judge only Monday.
Indeed, one would be tempted to dismiss Ceglia’s suit
as ridiculous — except that Zuckerberg did do work for him, Ceglia purportedly has e-mails from Zuckerberg confirming the signed contract, and Ceglia is now represented by DLA Piper — one of the nation’s most well-respected law firms.
Which is to say, this is either an elaborate con job or Ceglia has proof of the biggest corporate thievery since Bernie Madoff.
The updated complaint includes purported snippets of e-mails showing Zuckerberg using portions of the code he was paid to create for Ceglia’s venture “StreetFax,” as part of what was then called “TheFacebook.” After Ceglia relented on some contractual penalties that put his ownership at 80 percent, Zuckerberg finally launched the site in 2004. Zuckerberg then grew testy with Ceglia, telling him the site was failing, that he was planning to quit, and offering to give Ceglia his money back in exchange for the equity.
Facebook says the suit is bogus, and the e-mails are fake.