New York Man Says Emails Prove Facebook Ownership Stake

New York man Paul Ceglia files new emails in ownership suit against Facebook.

ByABC News
April 12, 2011, 2:53 PM

April 13, 2011— -- Could seven-year-old emails cut Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's billions in half? Paul Ceglia, the New York man who last year claimed he owns a large stake in Facebook, thinks so.

On the same day that a federal appeals court sided with Zuckerberg in a separate Facebook ownership suit brought by Harvard classmates Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, Ceglia filed an amended complaint in his case with new evidence he says proves that 50 percent of Zuckerberg's interest in Facebook belongs to him.

Filed Monday with a U.S. district court in New York, the updated complaint (submitted by a new legal team) includes a series of emails it says Zuckerberg and Ceglia exchanged in 2003 and 2004.

According to the complaint, Ceglia claims the messages show that Zuckerberg agreed to give Ceglia a 50 percent share in the website that became Facebook, but later "embarked on a secret scheme" to cut Ceglia out of the company.

Included in the complaint was a 2004 e-mail allegedly sent by Ceglia to Zuckerberg accusing Zuckerberg of stealing his programming code to create Facebook: "You've got some nerve talking about me owing you with the CRIMINAL stunts you've pulled (sic) Reasonable people go to court to resolve their differences they don't go stealing things dude, you stole code, not once, not twice but THREE TIMES! Do you have any idea the damage you've done??? Grow up, take a f***ing ethics class, choke yourself with that silver spoon of yours," Ceglia allegedly wrote.

Facebook: 'Scam Artist's Claims Are Ridiculous'

Facebook has acknowledged that Zuckerberg did do some computer programming for Ceglia, but has called Ceglia's ownership claims "absurd" and "frivolous."

"This is a fraudulent lawsuit brought by a convicted felon, and we look forward to defending it in court. From the outset, we've said that this scam artist's claims are ridiculous and this newest complaint is no better," Orin Snyder, an attorney representing Facebook from the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, said in a statement about the amended complaint.

Ceglia, who filed his first complaint last July, has acknowledged that his record with the law isn't exactly spotless. In 1997, he pleaded guilty to felony possession of so-called magic mushrooms. He's also said that it was a separate legal skirmish that led to his campaign against Facebook in the first place.

In an interview with Bloomberg News last summer, he said he wouldn't have found the old contract supporting his Facebook ownership claim had he not been sued in civil court by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over his wood-pellet fuel company.

In 2009, Cuomo sued Ceglia, his wife and Allegany Pellets, the couple's Wellsville, N.Y., wood-pellet fuel company, for taking more than $200,000 from customers but failing to deliver any products or refunds. The Ceglias and Allegany Pellets settled the case in Oct. 2010, after paying more than $125,000 in restitution and fees.