-US judge fears man might flee to Ireland

Facebook fraud trial told that extradition ‘rarely enforced’ here

A US prosecutor has said a man who claims he owns half of Facebook must continue to wear an electronic bracelet for fear he will flee to his mother’s homeland, Ireland, where extradition is “rarely enforced”.

The prosecutor, in a rare public admission, revealed that lawmakers and police in the US view their country’s extradition treaty with Ireland with deep suspicion.

Arguing against easing pre-trial restrictions on a dual Irish-US national charged with fraud, he made clear his fear the defendant might flee to Ireland, from where there will be a rare chance he would be extradited.

The high-profile case involves a man accused of forging documents as part of a claim that he owned half of Facebook.

Paul Ceglia sued Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, claiming he had evidence of a deal the pair made in 2004 that gave him a half interest in the social network, now valued at $173bn (€128bn).

But when, as part of the civil case, it emerged that some of the documents Ceglia produced might have been forged, he took off for Ireland.

Ceglia returned to the Corofin, Co Galway, area — the home of his mother Veronica — for more than a year from 2011. He travelled with his children.

He lived in Corofin for six years as a child, attending Cummer National School. His grandparents, Nora and Andy Keaveney, for years ran the Ranch house Dance Hall on the N17, also known as Keaveney’s Hall.

Persuaded to return in late 2012, Ceglia was criminally charged with what prosecutors described as an attempted multibillion dollar fraud.

Ceglia, aged 41, was educated at Harvard University and is from Wellsville in upstate New York.

A status hearing was held yesterday in federal court in New York ahead of a November trial date.

Ceglia had earlier asked that restrictions placed on him ahead of the trial be eased, including that he be allowed take off an electronic bracelet for the summer.

Annalisa Miron, defending, had said Ceglia would like “to be able to enjoy the summer with his children” and “would like to go hiking”.

She said the ankle bracelet was an “embarrassment” for her client, who has developed a rash after wearing it for more than 18 months.

The prosecutor objected, claiming Ceglia could easily slip over the border to Canada and return to Ireland. “While we have an extradition treaty with Ireland, it is a rarely ever enforced,” prosecutor Janis Echenberg said.

The judge agreed, ordering he continue to be electronically monitored.

Echenberg was publicly voicing the long-held, private views of prosecutors and federal agents, including many US marshals, that once a fugitive lands in Ireland, it’s hugely difficult to get the individual extradited, particularly if it is an Irish citizen.

Few Irish citizens have been extradited to the US, with the High Court voicing concerns over everything from inmates being forced to wear pink underwear to excessive sentences and harsh prison conditions.


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