A criminal trial was set to begin on May 4 against Paul Ceglia for allegedly filing a sham lawsuit against Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg claiming fifty percent ownership of the social networking website but the accused fraudster has gone on the lam according to the U.S. Marshals Service which has offered a $5,000 reward for information on his whereabouts as reported by Bob Van Voris for Bloomberg:
Ceglia sued Facebook and Zuckerberg in 2010, claiming he was entitled to half the company based on a 2003 contract. The world's biggest social network is now valued at about $229 billion. A federal judge in Buffalo, New York, dismissed Ceglia's lawsuit last year, calling the contract "a fabrication."
Last fall Facebook and Zuckerberg sued several law firms and lawyers -- including DLA Piper and Milberg LLP -- who represented the scam artist as reported by Fortune Magazine. The lawsuit alleges:
The Defendant lawyers and their client, Paul D. Ceglia, conspired to file and prosecute a fraudulent lawsuit against Facebook and its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, based on fabricated evidence, for the purpose of extorting a lucrative and unwarranted settlement. The lawyers representing Ceglia knew or should have known that the lawsuit was a fraud -- it was brought by a convicted felon with a history of fraudulent scams, and it was based on an implausible story and obviously forged documents. In fact, Defendants' own co-counsel discovered the fraud, informed the other lawyers, and withdrew. Despite all this, Defendants vigorously pursued the case in state and federal courts and in the media. Ultimately, the federal court hearing the case dismissed it as a fraud and a federal grand jury indicted Ceglia for the same fraud. Plaintiffs Facebook and Zuckerberg bring this lawsuit for malicious prosecution and deceit and collusion with intent to deceive the court in violation of N.Y. Judicial Law section 487, to recover damages they incurred as a result of Defendants' fraudulent lawsuit.
Facebook and Zuckernerg "may hope that Paul Ceglia's sudden disappearance will support the notion that he's always been a con artist, and that DLA Piper and Milberg must have known that when they backed his ownership claims against the social networking giant" as reported by David Bario for The Litigation Daily.
A few years ago an earlier incarnation of the Milberg firm was indicted for its alleged role in a decades-long conspiracy pursuant to which serial plaintiffs were paid kickbacks from court-approved attorneys' fees in their cases. Several former partners were sent to prison, and the firm avoided further prosecution after paying a $75 million fine and employing a compliance monitor for two years. At the time of the June 2008 settlement between Milberg and the feds Sanford Dumain said: "We can now say to courts and clients that we are not a firm under indictment," and "we needed an understanding from the government that no one currently at the firm had any knowledge of the wrongdoing."
Further reading that may be of interest: