U.S. says man accused of Facebook fraud is a fugitive despite release from Ecuador prison

Jun 24, 2019 | 17 comments

Saying they were “disappointed” at Ecuador’s decision not to extradite the man accused of attempting to defraud Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook ownership, federal prosecutors in New York said that Paul Ceglia, 45, will remain a fugitive from justice in the United States.

Paul Ceglia at his Wellsberg, New York home before his arrest.

Ceglia, 45, a wood pellet salesman from Wellsville in upstate New York, was released from an Ecuador prison earlier this month after President Lenin Moreno denied the U.S. extradition request.

Ceglia had been missing since March 2015, when he removed his electronic ankle bracelet and disappeared from the United States with his wife, two sons and a dog. He was arrested in Salinas last year and was held until Moreno’s executive action.

“The government continues to consider Ceglia a fugitive and to seek his return to the United States to face charges,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis Echenberg wrote to U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan.

The criminal case accusing Ceglia of mail fraud and wire fraud arose from his 2010 civil lawsuit against Zuckerberg.

Ceglia claimed that while they were students at Harvard University, Zuckerberg had signed a 2003 contract giving him half of a planned social networking website that later became Facebook.

U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara in Buffalo dismissed that case after another judge said the contract was doctored. Ceglia was criminally charged in November 2012.

In a June 4 order denying Ceglia’s extradition, Moreno cited “humanitarian concerns” and the principle of reciprocity, saying several Ecuadorian citizens had not been extradited to face criminal charges at home. He also said Ceglia was father of a son born in Ecuador.

Echenberg attached a translated copy of Moreno’s order to her letter.

Robert Ross Fogg, a lawyer for Ceglia, said prosecutors can keep the criminal case open, but there is little else they can do. “He’s not coming back to the United States. I don’t foresee that at all,” Fogg said, referring to Ceglia. “I think he’s going to live his life in Ecuador, and seek asylum.”

Ceglia thanked Moreno at an unscheduled news conference following his release, according to the Buffalo News.

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