Earlier today, Facebook offered a significant new filing in the Ceglia case. The documents show that Facebook has hired a bevy of experts and investigators to look over Ceglia’s past, and every shred of evidence he’s offered the court. That’s not surprising, since Ceglia is asking for the equivalent of billions-nothing less than half of Zuckerberg’s share of Facebook.
Orin Snyder, the Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner who’s representing Zuckerberg and Facebook in this case, told paidContent: “This motion confirms, through expert testimony and other powerful evidence, what we have said all along: this case is an egregious fraud.”
Ceglia’s lawyers from DLA Piper issued this statement: “Mr. Ceglia welcomes the opportunity to expedite discovery in this case and disagrees with the opinions within the filing, which have been made by those who have not examined the actual contract at issue in this case or any of the other relevant evidence.”
What follows are some of the more interesting excerpts from Facebook’s motion [PDF] and accompanying evidence dump. It’s important to note that these are all allegations coming from attorneys, experts and investigators who are paid by Facebook. However, this is all sworn testimony under penalty of perjury, so these folks are putting their reputations on the line.
» The new filing contains emails between Zuckerberg and Ceglia-real emails, pulled from Harvard’s server, not the disputed emails that Ceglia put forward in his complaint. The tone is-as you might imagine-completely different than what Ceglia portrayed in his complaint. In the emails, Ceglia comes across as a failing businessman, practically begging Mark Zuckerberg to forgive him, because he keeps making excuses why he can’t pay Zuck for the work done on StreetFax. To wit:
March 20, 2004
Sorry to have not replied sooner this week. I am just trying to play catch up. We have greatly reduced our fees and are doing everything we can to get the cash ball rolling…. I unfortunately don’t have any cash to give you right now, but I can buy you dinner, while I am there [in Boston].
And 11 days later:
March 31, 2004
I’ve been doing everything I can do get the cash ball rolling. Listed my rental for sale, asked and reasked everyone I can imagine to invest yet no success. I am giving myself ulcers trying to get your money to you before you take aggressive action against the site again….
» At one point, Zuckerberg believed Ceglia owed him $11,000 for his work on StreetFax. Ceglia tried to convince him to accept 1% of StreetFax instead of cash payment, with an agreement that he would later buy back the 1% share for $15,000. In the email Ceglia also expresses his hope that Zuckerberg will not “take aggressive action against the site [StreetFax] again.” (This is all from the March 31, 2004 email, on p. 18 of the exhibit linked below.)
» See Facebook exhibit with three emails Ceglia sent to Zuckerberg [PDF].
» Speaking of emails, Facebook actually hired a linguist to compare the 11 email excerpts that Ceglia says were from Mark Zuckerberg to 35 emails that were verified as being from Zuckerberg. There were significant stylistic differences that make it unlikely, in the linguist’s opinion, that the two sets of writing had the same author. The “Zuckerberg” that shows up in Ceglia’s lawsuit drops his apostrophes, writes “can not” as two words, uses “distant or ambiguous pronouns,” writes “internet,” and spaces out his suspension points (like this “. . . I’ve been tweaking the search engine.”) Real Zuckerberg, by contrast, writes “cannot,” doesn’t space out his suspensions, never drops apostrophes, and always writes “Internet” with a capital I.
» Read opinion of Facebook’s linguist [PDF].
» See Mark Zuckerberg’s sworn declaration that the emails described in Ceglia’s complaint are not real [PDF].
» Facebook hired investigators from Kroll, a large private investigation firm. They dug up what they say is evidence that Ceglia has engaged in extensive land-sales scams. In the biggest exhibit-a 76-page whopper detailing Ceglia’s history of legal troubles-the investigators detail Ceglia’s history of arrests, which go back to a 1997 drug conviction for psychedelic mushrooms. They also describe testimony from six different people who say they were victims of Ceglia’s land scams, named only as Victim-1 through Victim-6.
Ceglia sold plots of land in New York and Florida on eBay (NSDQ: EBAY). According to the documents, in some cases, he misled buyers about how useful the land was-for instance, claiming one plot was “cleared and ready to build” and “zoned as residential,” when it wasn’t. In other cases, Ceglia allegedly just sold land that he didn’t own at all. Ceglia also is accused of propping up the prices of his land on eBay using shill bidding.
There’s also the bit about the wood pellets, which was first reported in the local press near Ceglia’s upstate New York home in 2009. Ceglia promised people he’d deliver wood payments as heating fuel, took their money, and then didn’t deliver. He was ultimately forced to pay restitution after being charged by the local D.A.
While Ceglia has gotten in a fair bit of trouble, though, he doesn’t have any convictions on his record beyond the 1997 one for the psychedelic mushrooms.
» Read private investigators’ report on Ceglia’s alleged scams [PDF].
» As for the contract, Facebook hired two different forensic experts to look into it. First, Facebook hired Frank Romano, a profesor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology and an expert in document analysis, who noted that there are “significant inconsistencies” between the two pages of the contract. The indents are formatted differently, the size and density of typeface differ, the margins differ, and “The Face Book” isn’t mentioned on page 2-leading the expert to conclude that Ceglia’s document is an “amateurish forgery.”
Another catch: Page 1 of the contract describes StreetFax LLC, a corporate entity that didn’t even exist at the date of the signing of the document, late April 2004. Page 2 refers to “StreetFax Inc.” Facebook calls this “strong evidence that page 1 is a recent forgery.”
Facebook’s other doc expert, Gus Lesnevich, looked at the signatures on the contract, but determined that without the original in hand, he can’t do a proper handwriting analysis, owing to the low quality of the reproductions that Ceglia has put into the public record.
» Read opinions of Facebook’s document expert: Romano [PDF] and Lesnevich [PDF]. (The Lesnevich file includes about 90 pages of exhibits that are basically Lesnevich’s resume-a copy of the contract in question is at pages 97-98.)
» Read Facebook’s main motion to expedite discovery [PDF]