Facebook Fugitive Ceglia Is Fighting Extradition From Ecuador

(Bloomberg) -- Paul Ceglia, who faces U.S. charges he faked a 2003 contract with Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg, is mounting a legal challenge to his extradition from Ecuador, where he was arrested on Thursday, his lawyer said.

Ceglia, 45, challenged his extradition in a hearing in Quito on Saturday, claiming a treaty between the U.S. and Ecuador doesn’t cover the crimes of mail fraud and wire fraud, with which he’s charged, said the lawyer, Roberto Calderon. He also told the judge that Ceglia was denied a hearing within 24 hours of his arrest as required by law.

Calderon said Ceglia chose to live in Ecuador because of its track record for defending human rights. Ceglia has also filed a petition with the court challenging the legality of his arrest. Ceglia was moved to a safer wing within the jail in northern Quito where he’s locked up after he said he feared for his life, the attorney said.

Ceglia was confined to his home in Wellsville, New York, awaiting trial in Manhattan, when he fled with his wife, two sons and dog, Buddy, in March 2015. Their disappearance was discovered by U.S. marshals who found he’d cut off an ankle bracelet and attached it to a ceiling-mounted motor in an attempt to make it appear to people monitoring remotely that he was still in the house.

In a series of emails to Bloomberg News in August 2016, Ceglia claimed he ran because he’d received a note with a death threat.

In 2014, a federal judge in Buffalo, New York, threw out Ceglia’s lawsuit claiming half-ownership of Facebook, ruling that he had forged a contract and fabricated emails between him and Zuckerberg, who in 2003 was a student at Harvard University and had hired Ceglia for freelance website coding. Ceglia, who denied wrongdoing, was charged criminally in 2012.

After Ceglia’s arrest on Thursday morning, one of his sons, Leenan, contacted Robert Ross Fogg, the Buffalo lawyer who represented his father in the U.S. criminal case. The family is fine, the teenager said in the email, and his mother, Iasia, gave birth to a third child while they were on the run. Buddy the dog was killed by a car in 2016, he said.

Fogg said Thursday he hadn’t heard from Ceglia, but would be willing to continue to defend him if asked. Fogg has said he believes Ceglia has a strong case.

The case is U.S. v. Ceglia, 12-cr-00876, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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