Like many, we’d written off Paul Ceglia, the upstate New Yorker suing Mark Zuckerberg for a 50 percent ownership stake in Facebook.
He’s burned through so many legal teams that we’ve lost count. He made off for Ireland more than six months ago, shirking his court appearances. And, as one source put it, he may be “a nice guy, but prone to exaggeration.”
But now a reputable law firm with a track record of wins against major corporations has given Mr. Ceglia its vote of confidence—confidence that there is at least enough evidence to shake down Facebook for a tidy settlement as the company prepares for its IPO.
PAUL CEGLIA IS A PUDGY 38-YEAR-OLD, with greasy black hair and creases around his light brown eyes, a serial small-time entrepreneur who could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. “He’s got tremendous confidence,” said Bill Castle, an upstate hotelier and one of Mr. Ceglia’s many bilious former business partners. “Smiles all the time, got this award-winning smile. Even when under pressure, he continues to smile.”
Mr. Ceglia piqued the nation’s curiosity when he filed a lawsuit last year in the Supreme Court of New York’s Allegany County claiming 84 percent ownership of Facebook; he piqued Betabeat’s when we read that he had been arrested for felony possession of magic mushrooms in Texas, claimed to have founded a natural burial cemetery in Ithaca and once operated an ice cream shop.
He also ran a video rental store, flipped real estate on eBay and owns a wood pellets company that was shut down by the Attorney General due to allegations of fraud. He’s currently working on a prototype of a “refrigerator/cookstove for use in developing nations,” he told the Wellsville Daily Reporter.
While none of his schemes have been especially lucrative so far, one failed venture may yet make him rich: StreetFax.com, a database of street photographs that Mr. Ceglia intended to license to insurance companies for use in evaluating claims, was built in part with code written by a young for-hire developer named Mark Zuckerberg. A 2003 contract with the programmer, now better known as the founder of Facebook, is the basis of Mr. Ceglia’s claim that he is entitled to half of the company.