March 10, 2015 / 7:00 PM / in 3 years

U.S. judge revokes bail for missing man accused in Facebook fraud

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg attends a keynote presentation event at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona March 2, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday revoked the bail of an upstate New York man who disappeared from authorities as he faces criminal charges that he tried to defraud Facebook Inc founder Mark Zuckerberg out of half of the social media company.

Paul Ceglia, 41, could not be located on Sunday when U.S. marshals were dispatched to check on him at his home. An ankle bracelet that he was supposed to be wearing to monitor his movements was found there.

In revoking Ceglia’s bail, U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan said it could be difficult to remove an ankle bracket.

“It is something it seems like took a fair amount of planning,” the judge said at a hearing.

Ceglia, a wood pellet salesman from Wellsville, New York, was charged in November 2012 with forging documents to extort Zuckerberg out of a 50 percent stake in Facebook, whose market value on Monday was about $222 billion.

The defendant has pleaded not guilty and been scheduled to go on trial on May 4.

Ceglia’s lawyers, Robert Ross Fogg and Gil Messina, said by phone during the hearing that they had each last heard from their client several days ago.

Fogg also said he was unable to find Ceglia by phone, text message or email upon learning of his disappearance.

“I can’t state as to what his state of mind is,” Fogg said.

Ceglia’s criminal fraud case arose from his having allegedly forged a contract and emails underlying a June 2010 civil lawsuit that he had brought against Facebook and Zuckerberg.

That lawsuit claimed that Ceglia was entitled to a huge Facebook stake under an April 2003 contract with Zuckerberg, then a Harvard University freshman who had done programing work for Ceglia’s StreetFax.com.

U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara in Buffalo, New York, dismissed Ceglia’s lawsuit in March 2014, saying the contract had been doctored. Ceglia is appealing, and Facebook later sued several lawyers who represented him in that case.

The case is U.S. v. Ceglia, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-cr-00876.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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