F.B.I. Arrests Man Accused of Stealing Unpublished Book Manuscripts

They have been perplexing thefts, missing a transparent motive or payoff, and so they occurred within the genteel, not significantly profitable world of publishing: Someone was stealing unpublished book manuscripts.

The thefts and tried thefts occurred primarily over e mail, by a fraudster impersonating publishing professionals and focusing on authors, editors, brokers and literary scouts who may need drafts of novels and different books.

The thriller might now be solved. On Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Filippo Bernardini, a 29-year-old publishing skilled, saying that he “impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals” over 5 or extra years, acquiring a whole bunch of unpublished manuscripts within the course of.

Mr. Bernardini, who was arrested this afternoon after touchdown at John F. Kennedy International Airport, was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identification theft within the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. A spokesman for the Southern District stated Mr. Bernardini didn’t but have a lawyer.

While the indictment doesn’t title Mr. Bernardini’s employer, he describes himself as a rights coordinator for Simon & Schuster UK on his Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.

Simon & Schuster didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. It was not accused of wrongdoing within the indictment.

According to the indictment, to get his arms on the manuscripts, Mr. Bernardini would ship out emails impersonating actual folks working within the publishing trade — a selected editor, for instance — by utilizing pretend e mail addresses. He would make use of barely tweaked domains like penguinrandornhouse.com as a substitute of penguinrandomhouse.com, — placing an “rn” in place of an “m.” The indictment stated he had registered greater than 160 fraudulent web domains that impersonated publishing professionals and firms.

Mr. Bernardini additionally focused a New York City-based literary scouting firm. He arrange impostor login pages that prompted his victims to enter their usernames and passwords, which gave him broad entry to the scouting firm’s database.

Mr. Bernardini left few digital crumbs on-line, omitting his final title on his social media accounts, like Twitter and LinkedIn, the place he described an “obsession for the written word and languages.” According to his LinkedIn profile, he obtained his bachelor’s in Chinese language from Università Cattolica in Milan, and later served because the Italian translator for the Chinese comedian e book writer Rao Pingru’s memoir, “Our Story.” He additionally obtained a grasp’s diploma in publishing from University College London and described his ardour as guaranteeing “books can be read and enjoyed all over the world and in multiple languages.”

Many in publishing who obtained the phishing emails famous that whoever wrote them was clearly acquainted with the trade. The thief would typically use widespread shorthand, like “ms” for manuscript, and understood how a e book received from one level to the following on its approach to publication. The phishing assaults have been so voluminous and far-reaching, hitting publishing professionals within the United States, Sweden and Taiwan, amongst different international locations, that some have stated it couldn’t probably be the work of only one particular person.

For years, the scheme has baffled folks within the e book world. Works by high-profile writers and celebrities like Margaret Atwood and Ethan Hawke have been focused, however so have story collections and works by first-time authors. When manuscripts have been efficiently stolen, none of them appeared to indicate up on the black market or the darkish net. Ransom calls for by no means materialized. Indeed, the indictment particulars how Mr. Bernardini went in regards to the scheme, however not why.

Early data in a rights division could possibly be a bonus for an worker attempting to show his value. Publishers compete and bid to publish work overseas, for instance, and figuring out what’s coming, who’s shopping for what and the way a lot they’re paying might give corporations an edge.

“What he’s been stealing,” stated Kelly Farber, a literary scout, “is basically a huge amount of information that any publisher anywhere would be able to use to their advantage.”

In a information launch saying the arrest, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated: “This real-life storyline now reads as a cautionary tale, with the plot twist of Bernardini facing federal criminal charges for his misdeeds.”

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