Fraud charges leveled against Zuckerberg in a land case in Silicon Valley
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook has reportedly been charged with fraud wherein a developer has alleged that the billionaire failed to keep his promise of introducing him to Silicon Valley’s elite as part of a land deal. The lawsuit was filed by Real Estate Developer Mircea Voskerician.
A state judge in San Jose, California, denied 31-year-old Zuckerberg’s request to dismiss the claims that he did not keep his word in a $1.7 million deal that ended plans for a mansion construction and business referrals by the founder.
In the meantime, in yet another twist, Voskerician’s attorney David Draper also appealed the court to withdraw from the case, without disclosing the reason, just week before the trial.
The case grew out of a deal gone wrong in 2012. According to the court documents, a key email exchange occurred on November 24, 2012, between Zuckerberg and his financial advisor, Divesh Makan. Zuckerberg wrote: “Feel free to use meeting me as a negotiating carrot with them. That likely has real soft value to them and may make them more likely to want to give us a good deal.”
When setting up the meeting with a Zuckerberg assistant who wanted to know where the venue should be, Makan replies: “… it would be wherever (Zuckerberg) wants though the (Facebook) office is ideal. WE are trying to ‘wow’ these schmucks so they will accept an offer for the home that is reasonable. The plan is to have (Zuckerberg) spend 15min with them, make them feel special etc. Perhaps you can prepare 2 goodie bags as well.”
The court documents stated that Voskerician had owned the rights to buy the property adjoining Zuckerberg’s house in Palo Alto. He offered to sell his interest in the land to Zuckerberg so that the Facebook CEO could gain more privacy.
Zuckerberg opted to buy the rights, but Voskerician rejected that deal. That’s when things got messy.
The developer claims that he gave Zuckerberg a 40 percent discount on the property rights, while agreeing to drop plans to build a 9,600-square-foot home with a view overlooking Zuckerberg’s bedroom. In return, Zuckerberg promised introductions and referrals to boost Voskerician’s business, an ‘oral’ promise, as alleged, which he failed to keep.
Judge Patricia Lucas on Thursday rejected most of Zuckerberg’s requests to have individual claims decided in his favor without need of a trial. She also ruled that Divesh Makan must face a claim that he was part of a conspiracy to defraud Voskerician.
In her tentative ruling issued before the hearing, Lucas refused to dismiss the contract claim, saying the evidence shows the alleged agreement “is not so uncertain or indefinite so as to be rendered unenforceable.” She said she will make a final later.
Sara Petersen Graves, a lawyer for Makan refused to comment on Thursday’s ruling. The case is Voskerician v Zuckerberg, 114CV264667, Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).