The man charged by the FBI with stealing hundreds of book manuscripts may not face trial, under an agreement between prosecutors and his lawyers.
Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen who worked at UK publisher Simon & Schuster, was arrested in the US in January, with the FBI alleging he had “impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals” to obtain unpublished and draft works. The indictment said Bernardini had registered more than 160 fake internet domains to impersonate others since 2016.
Bernardini, who was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, was due in court in early July. In June, however, the judge in his case, US district court judge Colleen McMahon, agreed to postpone the appearance so prosecutors could consider a deferred prosecution request, according to Publishers Marketplace.
A deferred prosecution agreement is usually used in fraud or financial crime cases. It consists of a deal where prosecution is conditionally suspended while the defendant fulfils the requirements of the agreement in a set period of time. It is supervised by a judge, and could consist of Bernardini having to pay fines or compensation, or enacting other measures. The judge adjourned the case until 10 September.
Bernardini had previously pleaded not guilty to both charges, reported the Bookseller.
Hundreds of manuscripts were stolen over a period of five years, with authors, agents, editors, scouts and even judges for the Booker prize among the victims of phishing scams. Manuscripts of highly anticipated novels by Margaret Atwood, Sally Rooney and actor Ethan Hawke were among those targeted.
Publishing figures were fooled by slight changes in email addresses, such as using “r” and “n” to make “m”, as in @penguinrandornhouse.com. But none of the manuscripts ever appeared for sale, and no ransom demands were ever sent, leaving many puzzled as to the motives of those behind the phishing scam.
At the time of his arrest, Bernardini was working as a rights co-ordinator at Simon & Schuster UK. He was suspended by the company after his arrest, and Simon & Schuster was not named in the indictment or accused of any wrongdoing.
July 14, 2022 at 05:06PM Sarah Shaffi