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Felonious investor says he owns 50% of Facebook, may actually have a case

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A man named Paul Ceglia just filed a second lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg, alleging that he owns 50% of Facebook based on a contract he and Zuckerberg signed in 2004. Ceglia a) waited seven years to make his claim, and b) is a convicted felon who allegedly defrauded customers while operating a wood-pellet company (!). So you're probably thinking, "Hmm, this Paul Ceglia doesn't sound especially credible, and I certainly won't be buying wood pellets from him in the future, let alone giving him half of my fifty-billion-dollar internet company."

But the amazing thing is that Paul Ceglia might actually have a case. DLA Piper, an international law firm specializing in technology, has filed his new lawsuit; international law firms don't take on frivolous lawsuits, and this one apparently did weeks of due diligence to ensure that Ceglia's claims were valid. Business Insider has a detailed piece on the case, and makes a couple of good arguments in favor of taking Ceglia seriously:

…if the emails and contract Ceglia produced are indeed fake, the fraud should be easy to expose (so easy, in fact, that we imagine DLA Piper's investigators would already have exposed it–which leads us to question whether the emails and contract really are fake). We also think that, if the emails are fake, Paul Ceglia will be going to jail for a long, long time–a consequence that we assume was not lost on him.

They also reprint dozens of emails between Ceglia and a young Zuckerberg, who as you may remember was not himself known for his rectitude. Reading these correspondences, which are heavy on both sides with wheedling, backpedaling, vague threats, and apparent duplicities, it's easy to recognize the Mark Zuckerberg of The Social Network infamy. (How much that Zuckerberg resembles the real guy is of course widely debated.)

Whether they're real or not, the emails make for fascinating reading, and include a confession by Zuckerberg that he had deliberately stalled the Winklevoss twins on their Facebook-esque project; multiple acknowledgements that Ceglia had given Zuckerberg $2000 and that they'd both signed a contract settling on co-ownership; and even a threat by Ceglia to call Zuckerberg's parents. The whole Business Insider story is colorful and very much worth reading. Facebook says the whole thing's fake, but they must be worried. This could get interesting.