Facebook asks court to speed up Ceglia suit

@CNNMoneyTech June 2, 2011: 6:38 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Facebook has asked a New York court to speed up the discovery portion of a lawsuit filed by Paul Ceglia, who sued Mark Zuckerberg last year for 50% ownership of the company.

In April, Ceglia re-filed his claim with incendiary e-mails and contracts that he says prove he was handed half the company in April 2003.

Facebook has denied these claims, which it reiterated vehemently in its filing Thursday: "The contract is a cut-and-paste job, the emails are complete fabrications, and this entire lawsuit is a fraud."

Facebook's motion asked the Buffalo, N.Y., court to "grant expedited, phased discovery." That would include seizing every computer in Ceglia's control, as well as compelling him to produce "the native electronic version" of the alleged contract and e-mails.

"This discovery will bring this case to an immediate end by establishing that the purported contract and emails are forgeries," the Facebook motion said.

Ceglia's legal team did not respond to a request for comment.

The alleged contract: The "work for hire" contract that Ceglia filed as evidence says he paid Zuckerberg $1,000 for development work on a site called StreetFax, and $1,000 for work on the site "the Face Book," which Zuckerberg had already started.

The alleged contract also says that Ceglia would own 50% of the "software, programming language and business interests" of Facebook. That contract was included in Ceglia's suit from 2010.

Ceglia's complaint goes on to accuse Zuckerberg of multiple types of fraud and misappropriation of assets.

In April, Ceglia amended his complaint to included several alleged e-mails between him and Zuckerberg from July 2003 to July 2004 -- full of colorful language and arguments.

'Amateurish' fraud? Facebook's motion on Thursday included statements from experts attesting that both the alleged contract and supposed e-mail exchange are fraudulent.

"He is a convicted felon and well-known scam artist who has spent the last decade of his life ripping people off," Facebook said.

Facebook quoted a document authentication expert who called the contract an "amateurish forgery," pointing out different margins and formats on each page. Facebook also noted that the contract is dated April 2003, yet it refers to "StreetFax LLC" -- which was not created until August 2003.

Facebook also hired a forensics team to review all of Zuckerberg's messages contained in the e-mail account he used while a student at Harvard. The team found more than 175 e-mails with Ceglia or other StreetFax employees, but it said none of those e-mails mentioned Facebook in any form.

Zuckerberg has sworn under oath that he did not sign the alleged contract, nor did he write or receive the e-mails Ceglia included in his lawsuit.

Ceglia's criminal past: Facebook devoted several pages of its motion to detailing Ceglia's sordid past, calling him a "professional con artist" and "a career criminal who has engaged in fraud, subterfuge and falsification of documents."

Facebook's motion ran through Ceglia's several brushes with the law, starting with a 1997 felony conviction for possession of 400 grams of a compound found in some hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Facebook accused Ceglia of a "wide-ranging criminal land scam" in New York and Florida, alleging that he forged government documents and financed payments for plots he didn't own.

Finally, Facebook pointed out that Ceglia was arrested and charged with consumer fraud in 2009, and sued by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. He was charged with running a scam in which local residents bought wood pellets that he never actually delivered.

Ceglia settled the civil case by paying $25,000 in penalties and more than $100,000 in restitution to his customers. The result of the criminal case is unclear.

"If Ceglia were in fact the owner of a substantial stake in Facebook, why would he have resorted to a life of crime?" Facebook asked in Thursday's filing. To top of page

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