WELLSVILLE, N.Y. — Paul Ceglia, the man facing charges for fraudulently claiming an ownership stake in Facebook, escaped his electronic ankle bracelet and fled by using a motorized contraption that simulated human movements, prosecutors said this week. Now Ceglia’s wife and children have also been reported missing.
State police say Iasia Ceglia and her two sons, 10-year-old Leeman and 11-year-old Joseffinn, were reported missing on Tuesday. That’s the same day a federal judge revoked bail for Paul Ceglia. Troopers say it’s unknown whether his wife and boys are with Ceglia.
Prosecutors say Ceglia rigged a contraption using a stick and a motor, according to court papers first reported by Bloomberg. The device was mounted on the ceiling of his rural home in Wellsville, 70 miles southeast of Buffalo, and a timer was attached to the monitoring bracelet’s charger to further simulate normal usage.
“The purpose of the contraption appeared to be to keep the bracelet in motion using a stick connected to a motor that would rotate or swing the bracelet,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Wilson, according to Bloomberg.
U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick in Manhattan revoked Ceglia’s $250,000 bail after officials made the discovery. Ceglia’s lawyers said he failed to respond to messages sent by phone and email instructing him to appear at Tuesday’s hearing.
The judge noted how difficult it is to tamper with a monitoring bracelet. He also questioned whether Ceglia had been planning to run for months, since the defendant had successfully requested in September that his bail be modified so that he could access some of real estate equity to hire lawyers.
Broderick said he now wondered whether Ceglia may be using some of the money “in connection with his flight.” The judge added that freeing himself of the electronic bracelet and making a run for it “probably took a fair amount of planning.”
Defense attorney Robert Fogg told Broderick that he believed that properties supporting the bail could not be sold because of the economic climate and because of the criminal charges.
“I can’t say what his state of mind was. I don’t know,” he said. “And was it a plan from the beginning? I don’t know.”
Prosecutors say Ceglia doctored a contract he signed with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 to make it seem he was part owner of the Menlo Park, California, company. Ceglia had pleaded not guilty to fraud charges.
In 2010, Ceglia filed a multibillion-dollar lawsuit claiming that the 2003 software development contract included a provision entitling Ceglia to half ownership of Facebook in exchange for startup money.
A federal judge in Buffalo threw out the lawsuit after a magistrate judge concluded that the contract was altered. Facebook lawyers have said the two had a contract but that references to Facebook were added for purposes of the lawsuit. Ceglia was criminally charged in 2012.
Additional reporting by Mashable
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