Facebook has just filed a motion for expedited discovery in its case against Paul Ceglia, the man who is claiming that he holds a major stake in Facebook based on a contract he allegedly signed with Mark Zuckerberg back in 2003. There was plenty of initial skepticism around the case (who could possibly forget that they owned a major stake in one of the most successful companies of the decade?), but people starting taking it more seriously when Ceglia landed representation from DLA Piper, and a series of potentially legitimate email exchanges surfaced. Now Facebook is striking back, and it’s not mincing its words.
The document, embedded below, is a concerted attack on Ceglia’s character and criminal history. Facebook is asking the court to grant expedited, targeted discovery that would require Ceglia to produce the original contract between Zuckerberg and Ceglia, as well as original copies of their email exchanges. Facebook also wants access to all of Ceglia’s computers. Facebook’s argument is that with this evidence (or lack thereof), it can prove that Ceglia’s claim is fraudulent, which would render a full discovery process unnecessary.
To help support its claim that Ceglia’s case is fraudulent, Facebook hired private investigative firm Kroll Associates, which dug through Ceglia’s past. According to Facebook’s filing, Kroll uncovered more of Ceglia’s transgressions that allegedly include multiple incidents of land scamming in New York and Florida.
According to the filing, Kroll investigators presented the Director of the Polk County (Florida) Land Development Division with some of the documents involved with these land scams, and the Director stated that they had likely been doctored. The filing also details a wood pellet scam, whereby Ceglia would sell wood pellets that he never delivered.
The money quote:
“The fact that Ceglia has spent the past seven years a a hustler engaged in various land swindles and wood-pellet scams further highlights the fraudulent nature of his claims in this case. If Ceglia were in fact the owner of a substantial stake in Facebook, why would he have resorted to a life of crime?”
The filing goes on to detail why the contract with Zuckerberg that Ceglia previously produced is itself a forgery, citing Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus Rochester Institute of Technology, who says there are “significant inconsistencies between page 1 and 2 of the document” (“The Facebook” is only mentioned on page 1), including differences in page width and margins, type face, and spacing. Another quote from Romano:
Based on my professional experience and judgment, my opinion is that Page 1 and Page 2 of [the document] were printed at different times on different printers. This strongly indicates that, at least in part, [the document] is forged. Furthermore, all the references to “The Face Book” or “The Page Book” appear on Page 1. Thus, it is my conclusion that Page 1 of [the document] is an amateurish forgery.
There is much more beyond that — Facebook also does a point by point breakdown on why the emails between Zuckerberg are also fraudulent. And it says that “Zuckerberg has now declared under oath that he did not sign the contract attached to Ceglia’s complaint, and he did not write or receive any of the purported emails quoted in the Amended Complaint.”
Of course, even if Ceglia were completely telling the truth Facebook would likely try to undermine his character by pointing out his past transgressions. But given the extent of this attack, Zuckerberg’s sworn testimony, and Facebook’s confidence that the evidence will support its case, Ceglia’s lawyers certainly have their work cut out for them.