New York manuscript pirate arrest ends years-old publishing mystery

He was employed by the famous Simon & Schuster publishing house. A man suspected of stealing literary proofs from prestigious authors before their publication has been arrested, US authorities said on Friday (January 7th). The FBI has thus put an end to a mystery that has shaken the literary world for years.

Presented in court in New York on Thursday, the day after his arrest at JFK airport, Filippo Bernardini, a 29-year-old Italian, was charged with electronic fraud and aggravated identity theft, crimes punishable by 22 years in prison .

He was placed on a deposit of 300,000 dollars (264,189 euros), “which will be guaranteed on its property”, and was placed in “house arrest” with “curfew”, said a spokesman for the Manhattan federal prosecutor.

He is suspected of having had years of “hundreds of unpublished manuscripts”, sometimes with known authors or their representatives, by writing to them with false e-mail addresses of managers of publishing houses or literary agents, details the indictment disseminated by the American justice system.

In 2019, author Margaret Atwood was among those targeted revealed her agent, including the hardships of the highly anticipated sequel to The scarlet maid, Wills. According to a survey by New York Times (article subscribers, in English) at the end of 2020, other authors, such as Sally Rooney, Ian McEwan, or actor Ethan Hawke had also been targeted.

According to American justice, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize had transmitted to him “his manuscript to be published”, thinking he was his publisher.

Filippo Bernardini’s motivations are still unclear. The indictment does not indicate what he did with the recovered works, and whether he derived any financial benefit from them. Simon & Schuster announced that they have “suspended” his employee, “pending further information on the case”, saying “shocked and horrified” by the actions of the suspect.

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