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The Allegany County man who claims to own half of Facebook is asking the courts to drop the criminal charges against him because of a conflict of interest by the New York City prosecutor handling the case.

Paul Ceglia, in a complaint filed Monday, said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara once worked for the law firm representing Facebook in Ceglia’s civil lawsuit against the social networking giant.

“The appearance of impropriety is obvious,” Ceglia said in his court papers.

Ceglia was charged in federal court in Manhattan last year with orchestrating a “multibillion-dollar scheme” to defraud Facebook.

Federal prosecutors say Ceglia “doctored, fabricated and destroyed evidence” to support his ownership claims regarding Facebook, and they charged him with felony wire and mail fraud.

“Dressing up a fraud as a lawsuit does not immunize you from prosecution,” Bharara said at the time.

The criminal charges against Ceglia, in many ways, mirror the counterallegations made by Facebook in Ceglia’s civil suit against the company.

The complaint contends that Ceglia replaced the first page of his previous contract with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg with a new page doctored to make it appear Zuckerberg had agreed to provide him with an interest in Facebook.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com