An Italian citizen has pleaded guilty to fraud in a New York court after posing as publishers and agents for several years to steal manuscripts of unpublished books, many of which were written by famous authors, have said federal prosecutors.
Filippo Bernardini, 30, confessed to one count of wire fraud in connection with the scheme before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarak Netburn on Friday in federal court in Manhattan.
The Italian, who worked in London for US publishing giant Simon & Schuster, used his intimate knowledge of the industry to dupe dozens of authors into handing over their unpublished works, prosecutors allege.
“Through spoofing and phishing schemes, Bernardini was able to fraudulently obtain more than a thousand manuscripts,said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.
Bernardini”impersonated hundreds of separate people and engaged in hundreds of unique efforts to fraudulently obtain electronic copies of manuscripts to which he was not entitled,according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The accused created fake email accounts by registering more than 160 Internet domains “which were designed to confusingly resemble the actual entities they were impersonating, including only minor typographical errors that would be difficult for the average recipient to identify on a quick review,the officials said.
According to prosecutors, the scheme began “at leastas early as August 2016 and continued until January of last year when the man was arrested by the FBI at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Bernardini has so far not publicly explained the motives for his actions. According to the media, the stolen manuscripts were not leaked on the Internet and no ransom demand was made. The victims of the scheme are believed to include renowned Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, award-winning British author Ian McEwan and Irish novelist and screenwriter Sally Rooney.
As part of his guilty plea, Bernardini agreed to pay restitution of $88,000, officials said. He will be sentenced on April 5. The maximum sentence he could face is 20 years in prison.
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