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The surreal story of Paul Ceglia, the small time con artist who claims to own most of Facebook, took a further twist today. [UPDATED: the court has since published the order outlining the details. See here for the latest]
According to a source who attended a court hearing in Buffalo today, a federal judge instructed Ceglia to return from Ireland to produce evidence that Facebook says he hid or destroyed. The upstate New York man decamped for Ireland in September, shortly after his case began to unravel.
Ceglia attracted international headlines last year by claiming he had a 2003 contract in which Mark Zuckerberg agreed to sign over up to 83% of Facebook in exchange for $1000. Facebook has adamantly denied the claim and pointed to Ceglia’s record as a convicted scam artist. In the process, Ceglia has attracted a revolving door of lawyers ranging from an upscale New York firm to, more recently, a small town lawyer who was penalized for producing morphed images of child pornography.
In recent weeks, the judge presiding over the case has grown increasingly exasperated with Ceglia and his legal team who have repeatedly missed deadlines to produce evidence. Facebook believes the evidence will further validate the company’s story that the alleged contract was a forgery.
At today’s three-hour hearing, according to the courtroom source, the judge ordered Ceglia to return from Ireland to search for missing USB devices and to submit a declaration about what he has done to find the evidence. If he cannot produce the evidence, the judge ordered him to explain under oath what became of it.
The source said Ceglia has 30 days to comply with the order. A written order based on today’s proceeding is likely to appear on the court’s electronic docketing system by tomorrow.