A man has admitted to stealing more than 1,000 unpublished manuscripts from distinguished authors said to include Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood and Sally Rooney.
Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen who worked for publisher Simon & Schuster UK in London, carried out elaborate deceptions between August 2016 and January 2022, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said.
He used fake email accounts to impersonate real people in the literary world to dupe authors out of manuscripts, the office said.
But why he did it remains unclear.
Bernardini, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, prosecutors said, and could face up to 21 months in prison.
“Filippo Bernardini used his insider knowledge of the publishing industry to create a scheme that stole precious works from authors and menaced the publishing industry,” US attorney Damian Williams said.
Among those tricked was a Pulitzer Prize recipient, who sent Bernardini a copy of their unpublished manuscript, according to an indictment.
Bernardini did so by impersonating a well-known Simon & Schuster editor.
Victims are thought to have been puzzled by the fact that no demands for money were ever made and the manuscripts never seemed to appear online.
Bernardini was arrested in January 2022. A representative for Simon & Schuster said at the time that they were “shocked and horrified” to learn of the allegations, and they were grateful to the FBI for investigating the case.
In addition to any prison time, Bernardini will also pay $88,000 in restitution, the US attorney’s office said.