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'I own half of Facebook', says New York fuel salesman

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New York firewood salesman Paul Ceglia filed a revised complaint against Facebook yesterday, in which the claimant said he had evidence that showed he was entitled to ownership of half of the social network.

Ceglia alleges he has email exchanges with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where the two men discussed the terms of a 2003 contract and also talked about early development of the site, originally dubbed "The Face Book".

The revised filing was lodged yesterday in a federal court in Buffalo, New York, which happened to be the same day that the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, lost an appeal against an earlier settlement with Facebook, which granted them $20m in cash and $45m in the firm's shares.

In that separate case, the identical twins had claimed that Zuckerberg stole their idea for a website of Harvard alumni.

Privately-held Facebook, meanwhile, continues to deride Ceglia's claims against the world's biggest social networking site, which is said to be worth as much as $55bn.

"This is a fraudulent lawsuit brought by a convicted felon, and we look forward to defending it in court," the company's lawyer Orin Snyder told Bloomberg.

"From the outset, we've said that this scam artist's claims are ridiculous and this newest complaint is no better," he added.

Ceglia had initially hired Zuckerberg to do some computer coding for him in 2003 and paid the then 19-year-old boydroid $1,000 to do the work.

He claimed in an earlier suit that he later inked a contract with Zuckerberg in April 2003 to design a website called "The Face Book" or the "The Page Book" by 1 January 2004.

The deal allegedly granted Ceglia a 50 per cent stake in the business. He notched up 1 per cent for every day past the due date, which eventually led to his original 84 per cent claim against Zuckerberg.

In recent years, Ceglia has faced legal problems of his own, after the New York Attorney General took out a restraining order against his company, which markets wood-pellet fuel, in December 2009. Authorities claimed Ceglia lied and repeatedly took customers' money then failed to deliver goods or refunds.

According to his latest complaint against Facebook, Ceglia dropped his claim for the additional percentage, after Zuckerberg grumbled about the terms.

"Zuckerberg sent to Ceglia emails complaining that a provision in the agreement giving Ceglia an additional 1 percent interest in the business for each day after Jan 1, 2004 that 'The Face Book' website wasn’t complete, was unfair because it would give Ceglia more than 80 per cent ownership of the business, including thefacebook.com website," reads the filing. ®

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