United States federal agents arrested on Jan. 5 a suspect in a years-long scheme in which he impersonated figures from the publishing industry to steal unpublished book manuscripts.
Authorities arrested Filippo Bernardini, a 29-year-old Italian, when he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Jan. 5 and charged him with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, Bernardini created fake email accounts by registering over 160 internet domains “to fraudulently obtain prepublication manuscripts” starting from August 2016.
The indictment said that Bernardini is based in London and currently works as a rights coordinator for “a major international, U.S. based publishing house.”
“We allege Mr. Bernardini used his insider knowledge of the industry to get authors to send him their unpublished books and texts by posing as agents, publishing houses, and literary scouts,” Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in a statement.
New York City-based publishing company Simon & Schuster confirmed that Bernardini is their employee.
“We were shocked and horrified to learn of the allegations of fraud and identity theft by an employee of Simon & Schuster UK. The employee has been suspended pending further information on the case,” Senior Vice President Adam Rothberg said in a statement to NBC News on Jan. 6.
“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,” Rothberg further said.
The wire fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison while the aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.
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