Mystery solved? Man arrested in thefts of unpublished books

Has mystery that puzzled literary world for years FINALLY been solved? FBI arrest London-based publishing worker, 29, in probe into theft of hundreds of unpublished manuscripts from famous authors including Margaret Atwood and Ethan Hawke

  • Italian citizen Filippo Bernardini, 29, was arrested in New York on Wednesday
  • He is accused of impersonating industry figures to amass unpublished work
  • Social media profile says Bernadini worked for Simon & Schuster in London

It was the mystery that puzzled the literary world for five years, and saw manuscripts from the likes of Margaret Atwood and Ethan Hawke stolen before they hit public bookshelves.

Someone with apparent inside knowledge was carrying out an international phishing scheme, impersonating an editor or agent to trick famous authors into sending links to their unpublished works.

Many fell victim to the heist, as the scammer would set up fake email accounts, with  slightly tweaked domain names.

For instance, rather than using penguinrandomhouse.com, the cyber-criminal would instead use penguinrandornhouse.com — putting an ‘rn’ in place of an ‘m.’ 

The ongoing scheme was all the more mysterious because whoever was seeking the manuscripts was apparently not attempting to sell them or otherwise publicly exploit having them.

But on Wednesday, there appeared to be a breakthrough, when the FBI announced they had arrested a 29-year-old London-based publishing worker in New York 


US investigators have long been probing the theft of hundreds of unpublished manuscripts from famous authors including Margaret Atwood (left) and Ethan Hawke (right)

How authors were duped into handing over manuscripts for highly-prized books

For years, the publishing industry has been baffled by an international phishing scheme in which someone with apparent inside knowledge impersonated an editor or an agent and attempted to trick an author or an editor into sending links to unpublished manuscripts. 

This was done by setting up a fake email account and slightly tweaking domain names.

For example, he would allegedly use names like penguinrandornhouse.com instead of penguinrandomhouse.com, — putting an ‘rn’ in place of an ‘m.’ 

The indictment said he had registered more than 160 fraudulent internet domains that impersonated publishing professionals and companies.

He faces charges including wire fraud, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft. 

Italian citizen Filippo Bernardini, who works for publishing firm Simon & Schuster in the English capital, was handcuffed by officers yesterday after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport, said Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in a statement.

The 29-year-old is accused of illegally amassing a veritable library of unpublished works, including The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, as well as novels by Ethan Hawke and Stella Rooney.

There is no suggestion Simon & Schuster is accused of any wrongdoing, as the company said in a statement it was ‘shocked and horrified’ to learn of the allegations. 

‘Bernardini allegedly impersonated publishing industry individuals in order to have authors, including a Pulitzer prize winner, send him prepublication manuscripts for his own benefit,’ Williams said in the statement. 

‘This real-life storyline now reads as a cautionary tale, with the plot twist of Bernardini facing federal criminal charges for his misdeeds.’

According to the indictment against Bernardini, which was filed in July but only unsealed yesterday, the schemes had been taking place from at least August 2016 through July of last year.

It said Bernardini ‘used fraudulent, look-alike, domains to impersonate individuals involved in the publishing industry to gain surreptitious access to these materials,’ and that over the years he ‘impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals.’

He faces charges including wire fraud, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft. 

He was expected to appear in federal court today. No information on an attorney for him was available.

Works by Sally Rooney (pictured) were also among the unpublished manuscripts stolen

The indictment added that Bernardini was described as working in London for a ‘major, international, US-based publishing house’, and a LinkedIn profile for a Filippo B. said he worked for Simon & Schuster.

In a statement, the publisher said it was ‘shocked and horrified to learn today of the allegations of fraud and identity theft by an employee of Simon & Schuster UK.’

The publisher said Bernardini had been suspended pending additional information.

It added: ‘The safekeeping of our authors´ intellectual property is of primary importance to Simon & Schuster, and for all in the publishing industry, and we are grateful to the FBI for investigating these incidents and bringing charges against the alleged perpetrator.’ 

Source: Read Full Article

click fraud detection