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Alleged Facebook scammer arrested in Ecuador after three years on the run

Alleged Facebook scammer arrested in Ecuador after three years on the run

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Illustration by James Bareham / The Verge

Sometime in April 2003, Paul Ceglia and Mark Zuckerberg did business together and signed a contract. According to Zuckerberg (and eventually, federal prosecutors), it was a simple work-for-hire programming job — but in 2010, Ceglia went to court arguing the contract entitled him to half of Facebook, already worth billions.

With the Winklevoss settlement still fresh, it may have seemed like a quick path to a payoff, but Facebook refused to play ball. The case stalled, and soon Ceglia was charged with fraud for falsifying documents and placed under house arrest. Dropped by eight different lawyers, Ceglia faced legal defeat after legal defeat, eventually scrambling simply to stay out of prison.

Then, in a move almost no one expected, Ceglia disappeared. In March 2015, Ceglia slipped off his ankle bracelet and disappeared, together with his wife, their two children, and their dog. In an email to Bloomberg months later, he said he had escaped because he was in fear for his life. “I felt I had no one in government I could trust,” he wrote. “An opportunity presented itself, so I MacGyver’d some things together and started running for my life.”

Now, more than three years later, Ceglia may finally be returning to the United States. Reuters is reporting that the alleged scammer has been apprehended in Ecuador, and is currently awaiting extradition to stand trial for the fraud charges. His lawyer told the newswire that he was relieved to learn Ceglia was safe, and there was still a “strong case” for his client’s innocence.