Zuckerberg Foe Hires New Gun in Fraud Case

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The Buffalo-area businessman accused of trying to defraud Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg got a new lawyer, a new trial date, and apparently, revisited an old legal strategy.
     Paul Ceglia, 41, of Wellsville, N.Y., relieved his public defenders on Monday and appointed a local lawyer Robert Fogg to fight allegations he forged a contract to swindle Zuckerberg out of half of the Facebook fortune.
     Months before Zuckerberg launched his earliest version of Facebook in 2004, the Harvard student answered a 2003 Craigslist ad to perform coding on Ceglia’s now-defunct website StreetFax.
     Ceglia sued Zuckerberg in Buffalo federal court seven years later, claiming that their $1,000 contract came with a clause giving him 50 percent interest in what became Facebook.
     After Zuckerberg called the purported contract a forgery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York took up the case as an alleged multibillion dollar fraud scheme in 2012.
     A year later, Fogg unsuccessfully sued in Buffalo to enjoin the Justice Department from pursuing the prosecution.
     Prosecutors were trying to pressure Ceglia not to pursue his First Amendment right to bring a civil action, Fogg asserted at the time.
     Alleging a far-flung conspiracy, Fogg wrote that Zuckerberg’s lawyers at the firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher have assigned “two firm lawyers who are former prosecutors at [the Southern District of New York]” to the case.
     Fogg also hinted ominously about what he called the “history and shared relationship” between that firm and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who worked for Gibson Dunn four years before becoming a federal prosecutor in New York.
     Bharara acted as a litigation associate at the firm between 1993 and 1996, and an assistant U.S. Attorney in New York in 2000, according to his LinkedIn profile.
     He did not become Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor, however, until 2009.
     Judges in Buffalo rejected Fogg’s bid for an injunction, and Ceglia’s civil suit.
     After being admitted to serve as Ceglia’s counsel on Monday, Fogg announced that both dismissals are currently under appeal to the 2nd Circuit.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis Echenberg urged a federal judge not allow the change of lawyers to push the trial back any further.
     “Any adjournment or substitution of counsel appears to be a delay tactic,” she said.
     U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter, however, agreed to move trial to May 4, 2015 to give Fogg time to sift through the case’s “voluminous” discovery.
     The parties will meet in court again on Oct. 24.
     The U.S. Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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