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Facebook fugitive Paul Ceglia freed by Ecuador's president

The New York man disappeared in 2015 after being charged with trying to extort billions of dollars from Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.


Paul Ceglia, shown earlier this year in an Ecuadorean court, has been fighting US extradition efforts.

Cristina Vega / AFP/Getty Images

Paul Ceglia, who spent three years as a fugitive after being charged with trying to defraud Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, is once again a fugitive, US prosecutors say. The US Justice Department made that announcement Monday after learning Ecuador's president had denied a US extradition request.

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

Ceglia, a wood pellet salesman from upstate New York, was released from custody in Ecuador earlier this month, the Justice Department said, about nine months after his August 2018 arrest by Ecuadorian authorities. At the time of his March 2015 disappearance, Ceglia was awaiting trial in New York federal court on charges of mail fraud and wire fraud related to his alleged attempt to extort billions of dollars from Facebook and Zuckerberg. He reportedly removed his electronic ankle bracelet and disappeared with his wife, two children and a dog.

Ceglia, 45, filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg in 2010, claiming that he and Zuckerberg, then a student at Harvard University, signed a contract in April 2003 that promised Ceglia a 50 percent stake in the fledgling web venture that was to become Facebook.

Ceglia included a two-page contract and emails between him and Zuckerberg as evidence of the agreement. After a forensic examination of the evidence, authorities said Ceglia simply falsified the first page of the contract and attached it to a second page containing both parties' signatures.

Ceglia's lawsuit against Zuckerberg was dismissed in 2014 after a judge said he found clear evidence that the 2003 contract submitted in the claim was a "recently created fabrication."

During his time in Ecuador, Ceglia fathered a third son, who is 14 months old and is subject to court-ordered child support, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno wrote in a letter on June 5.

"As a protective measure against him, such order prohibits him from traveling out of the country," Moreno wrote in his letter denying the extradition request. "These are humanitarian issues, since the state is required to honor and enforce the rights of girls, boys and adolescents, according to the principle of their best interest."

Facebook and Robert Ross Fogg, a US lawyer for Ceglia in the criminal case, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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