By most accounts, the smart money is on Ireland.
After all, that’s where the Allegany County man who claims to own half of Facebook has dual citizenship.
Ireland is also where fugitive Paul Ceglia lived as recently as four years ago, and where his parents moved when they left their hometown of Wellsville last year.
Even now, more than a year after he escaped, the man who rocked the social media world with his Facebook ownership suit stirs interest in a public that seems to wonder, “where in the world is Paul Ceglia?”
“We’re not certain,” Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Baryza, the man in charge of the Ceglia investigation, said earlier this week. “But we still believe he’s with his wife and two kids.”
Baryza would not comment on the possibility that Ceglia may be in Ireland, but he confirmed that Ceglia’s mother and father left Allegany County shortly after their son fled in March of last year and unexpectedly relocated to Ireland.
Like her son, Vera Ceglia has dual citizenship there, Baryza said. She also has family in Ireland.
“They have not been back to the country since," the deputy U.S. marshal said. “And we assume they’re in contact with Paul.”
Without getting into the details of his 15-month probe, Baryza said leads have taken the marshals to Florida, Texas, California and the state of Washington.
“He has ties to all those areas,” he said.
The global search for Ceglia, which will be the subject of an “American Greed” episode on CNBC Thursday night, began when he fled his Wellsville home, leaving behind the electronic monitoring device that had been attached to his ankle.
Prosecutors say the escape was both inventive and elaborate and, in court papers, detail how they believe Ceglia removed the ankle bracelet and then attached it to a motorized device on his ceiling.
They claim the “handmade contraption” was intended to simulate Ceglia moving around his home when, in fact, he was already on the run.
Ceglia, who was facing a trial on fraud charges in Manhattan in May of last year, is believed to be with his wife, Iasia, 37; two sons, Joseffinn, 12, and Leenan, 11; and the family dog.
“The investigation is continuing and we’re following both foreign and domestic leads,” said Baryza.
Shortly after Ceglia’s escape, Brianna Caster, his sister-in-law and a professional photographer in Southern California, issued an appeal for help.
In a message posted on her Facebook page, Caster included photos of her sister and her two sons and seemed to suggest they may not have gone willingly with Ceglia.
Baryza said Iasia Ceglia’s family has since filed missing person reports on behalf of her and the two kids.
Robert Ross Fogg, the Buffalo lawyer representing Ceglia, says he hasn’t heard from his client since he went missing and doesn’t know anything about his whereabouts.
“I don’t know where he is,” Fogg said. “I really don’t.”
Fogg said he has talked with Ceglia’s parents, who he insists are in Ireland as part of a worldwide “crusade” to find their son.
“I believe they’ve gone to Ireland, and I believe they’ve gone to Brazil,” he said. “They’re all over the place.”
Ceglia’s lawyers never bought into the escape theory. They claim Ceglia was too passionate about his Facebook case to simply give it up and run. They also think it’s possible Ceglia and his family are the victims of foul play.
Ceglia’s disappearance in March of last year came eight months after his lawyer tried to loosen his bail conditions, and prosecutors warned of a possible escape.
At the time, prosecutor Janis Echenberg raised the possibility that Ceglia could travel just a few hours from his home, cross the border into Canada and then use fake travel documents to make his way back to Ireland.
“While we have an extradition treaty with Ireland, it is rarely ever enforced,” Echenberg said at the time.
The judge refused to remove Ceglia’s ankle bracelet.
The criminal allegations that he operated a “multimillion-dollar scheme” to defraud Facebook grew out of Ceglia’s civil suit claiming part-ownership of Facebook. That case, filed in Buffalo federal court, was ultimately dismissed by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara and U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio.
Filed in 2010, Ceglia’s suit was based on his contention that he and Zuckerberg signed the contract in 2003.
Facebook acknowledges that Zuckerberg signed a contract with Ceglia while a student at Harvard University, but the social media giant contends that the contract had nothing to do with Facebook.
The courts ultimately agreed and, in one ruling, pointed to “overwhelming forensic evidence” that the document was a fake.
The U.S. marshals, who are leading the search for Ceglia, are asking anyone with information about his whereabouts to call (800) 336-0102.
The marshals are also offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.