An Italian citizen accused of stealing hundreds of unpublished book manuscripts – including one from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author – was arrested Wednesday afternoon when he arrived at JFK airport, prosecutors said.
Filippo Bernardini, 29, an employee at London’s Simon & Schuster UK, was charged in a newly unsealed federal indictment with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft over the alleged scheme that dates back to at least August 2016, according to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Bernardini, who lives in London, allegedly posed as agents, editors and other publishing industry insiders to gain access to the unpublished works.
Margaret Atwood and Ethan Hawke were among those targeted, the Associated Press reported.
The savvy suspect allegedly duped authors into sending him their works by creating phony email accounts, with minor typos, to impersonate actual industry workers, prosecutors said.
In September 2020, Bernardini allegedly duped a Pulitzer Prize-winning author into sending him a file containing an upcoming manuscript by using a fake email account impersonating a well-known editor and publisher.
The alleged thefts puzzled the publishing industry, as none of the ill-gotten manuscripts were sold or publicly exploited.
Bernardini was described in the indictment – which was filed in July before being unsealed Wednesday – as working in London for a “major, international, US-based publishing house.”
A LinkedIn profile believed to be his said he worked for Simon & Schuster.
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 company added that Bernardini has been suspended.
Bernardini is scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
With Post wires
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