November 16, 2018 / 12:02 AM / 25 days ago

Ecuador OKs extraditing self-proclaimed Facebook owner to U.S.: lawyer

FILE PHOTO: The entrance sign to Facebook headquarters is seen in Menlo Park, California, on Wednesday, October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

QUITO (Reuters) - An Ecuadorean court authorized the extradition of Paul Ceglia, a New Yorker charged with trying to defraud Facebook Inc founder Mark Zuckerberg, to the United States, Ceglia’s lawyer in the Andean country said on Thursday.

Ceglia, a 45-year-old wood pellet salesman, faced charges of mail fraud and wire fraud over his alleged forging of documents to extort Facebook and Zuckerberg. He was arrested in Ecuador after fleeing the United States more than three years ago before his trial.

Ecuador announced his arrest in August.

His lawyer, Roberto Calderon, told Reuters he had appealed the extradition decision and that Ceglia would remain jailed in Ecuador while the appeal was heard. The extradition order only covered the wire fraud charge, so Ceglia would not be able to be tried for mail fraud in the United States, Calderon said.

The criminal case arose from Ceglia’s conduct related to a 2010 civil lawsuit he had filed against Zuckerberg. Ceglia claimed that Zuckerberg had, while a student at Harvard University, signed a 2003 contract giving him half of a planned social networking website that became Facebook.

U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara in Buffalo dismissed Ceglia’s lawsuit after another judge said the contract was doctored. Ceglia was criminally charged in November 2012.

Menlo Park, California-based Facebook is worth more than $400 billion, and Forbes magazine has estimated Zuckerberg’s net worth at about $64.8 billion.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Richard Chang

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