An Italian man pleaded guilty on Friday in New York to impersonating editors and agents in order to steal more than 1,000 unpublished book manuscripts belonging to authors like Margaret Atwood and the actor Ethan Hawke.
Filippo Bernardini, 30, a London resident who had been employed there by Simon & Schuster, entered his plea to one count of wire fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in federal court in Manhattan.
Bernardini could face 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 years in prison under recommended sentencing guidelines at his scheduled April 5 sentencing before another judge, his lawyer Hannah McCrea said.
Prosecutors said that from August 2016 until his January 2022 arrest, Bernardini created fake email addresses and registered more than 160 bogus domain names to impersonate publishing professionals, in an effort to claim authors’ works as his own.
They said the former Simon & Schuster rights coordinator would often replace a lower case “m” with an “rn,” so that “simonandschuster” might appear as “sirnonandschuster,” for example.
The more than 1,000 stolen manuscripts included a work by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, prosecutors said.
“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 in Manhattan said in a statement.
McCrea, a federal public defender, declined to comment on the plea.
Bernardini had pleaded not guilty to wire fraud and an aggravated identity theft charge, following his arrest upon arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Simon & Schuster was not accused of wrongdoing.
“Protection of authors’ intellectual property is of the highest priority for Simon & Schuster,” the publisher said in a statement expressing gratitude for authorities’ help.
The case is U.S. v. Bernardini, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 21-cr-00458.