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Lawyer for New York man suing Facebook wants out of the case

October 30, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco in September.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt… (Max Morse / Getty Images )

The New York man facing federal charges that he attempted to defraud Mark Zuckerberg and the company Zuckerberg founded Facebook Inc. may have lost yet another lawyer.

Dean Boland, who is representing Paul Ceglia in a civil lawsuit that federal prosecutors allege is fraudulent, has filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Buffalo to withdraw as Ceglia's counsel. He is one in a long line of lawyers who have withdrawn from the case since it was first filed in 2010.

In the motion, Boland insisted his reasons for withdrawing "have nothing to do with any belief by the undersigned that plaintiff is engaged in now or has been engaged in during the past, fraud regarding this case."

In an email, Boland said: "The motion speaks for itself." A Facebook spokesman declined to comment.

Last week federal prosecutors charged Ceglia with engaging in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Facebook and its founder, the latest bizarre twist in Ceglia’s legal odyssey that has dragged the social networking giant through years of legal proceedings. Ceglia, 39, has never backed down from his contention that he is entitled to half of Zuckerberg's stake in Facebook.

Zuckerberg agreed in 2003 to perform programming work for Ceglia's business Streetfax.com to earn money while he was a Harvard University student. Facebook denied Ceglia's claim that Zuckerberg gave Ceglia a 50% stake in Facebook in exchange for $1,000 in start-up money. Facebook launched in 2004. Facebook has asked the federal judge in Buffalo to dismiss Ceglia's case.

Ceglia's allegations were met with skepticism because of a conviction for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms in 1997 and fraud allegations involving his wood-pellet business. He became more credible when DLA Piper, the nation's largest law firm, took on his case, but it soon withdrew from the case. Further doubt was cast by the revolving door of lawyers Ceglia hired to represent him in the lawsuit against Facebook.

Ceglia was arrested at his Wellsville, N.Y., home Friday on suspicion of mail and wire fraud. He is being held in custody.

An investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service concluded that Ceglia had doctored, fabricated and destroyed evidence to support allegations in the lawsuit he filed against Facebook and Zuckerberg in 2010, according to a complaint unsealed Friday.

Manhattan U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara accused Ceglia of seeking a "quick payday" and attempting to perpetrate a "massive fraud."

If convicted on one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud, Ceglia could face up to 40 years in prison.

ALSO:

Paul Ceglia seeks Mark Zuckerberg sanctions

Federal judge orders Paul Ceglia to pay fine in Facebook case

Man suing Facebook arrested, accused of scheme to defraud company

Follow me on Twitter @jguynn

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