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Man's 'I own half of Facebook' claim branded 'fabrication' by judge

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A US judge has recommended that the lawsuit of Paul Ceglia, the New York wood-pellet salesman who claimed he owned half of Facebook, be thrown out because it's a pack of lies.

Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio said that the alleged 2003 contract with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg - which Ceglia claimed entitled him to half of the lucrative social network - is a "recently created fabrication".

"The evidence filed by the plaintiff in opposition, although voluminous, simply is replete with patent inconsistencies demonstrating the Work for Hire Document is a gross fabrication," Foschio said in a 155-page report.

The judge also said that it was "highly probable and reasonably certain" that Ceglia had doctored documents for the "express purpose of filing the instant action".

Ceglia claimed he signed a software development contract with Zuckerberg, when the latter was at Harvard University, which entitled him to half of the (now $50bn) company in exchange for $1,000 of startup money.

But Judge Foschio said that although the pair had signed a contract when Zuck replied to a help-wanted ad from Ceglia's company StreetFax.com, any references in the paperwork to Facebook were added later. Zuck himself said he hadn't come up with the idea for Facebook until after he finished working for Ceglia.

As well as the contract, Ceglia handed over emails supposedly from Zuckerberg in an attempt to prove that they had talked about the project that would eventually become the social network. But Facebook lawyers brought in forensic experts, who concluded that he had typed the "emails" in Microsoft Word and then pretended they were exchanged with Zuckerberg.

The case will now go to District Judge Richard Arcara, who will decide whether or not to approve the recommendation.

Ceglia is also facing criminal mail and wire fraud charges, announced in October relating to this case. US Attorney Preet Bahara accused him of looking for a "quick payday based on a blatant forgery".

Facebook has famously had to sort out a number of claims over original ownership of the ideas it is based on, including the battles with Eduardo Saverin and the Winkelvoss twins chronicled in the 2010 movie The Social Network. ®

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