Imposter who stole 1,000 unpublished works of authors pleads guilty

An Italian man who authorities say used a sophisticated scheme to steal unpublished works of authors pleaded guilty Friday, prosecutors said.

Filippo Bernardini, who worked for Simon & Schuster UK, stole more than 1,000 unpublished manuscripts between August 2016 and January 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said in a statement.

He impersonated real people in the literary world by using fake email accounts, the office said. Those impersonated included talent agencies, publishing houses and scouts.

Bernardini, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, prosecutors said. The sentence is up to a judge, but a plea agreement says sentencing guidelines are between 15 to 21 months in prison.

A federal public defender listed as representing Bernardini did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among those tricked was a Pulitzer Prize recipient, who sent Bernardini a copy of their unpublished manuscript, according to an indictment.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 editor. The author and editor were not named in the document.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

Bernardini created 160 fake internet domains of real people and entities, and made only minor typographical changes that were hard to detect, according to the indictment.

The letter “m” would be replaced with “r” and “n” next to each other — reading “rn” — in many cases.

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 U.S. attorney’s office said.