The FBI have arrested a man accused of stealing unpublished manuscripts by duping authors.
Over the period of 5 years the alleged thief, Filippo Bernardini, had been tricking authors into believing he was in the publishing industry, and having them send him their work.
He ended up receiving hundreds of unpublished manuscripts, including from Margaret Atwood and actor Ethan Hawke.
The 29-year-old Italian citizen had been working for publishers Simon & Schuster UK as a rights coordinator, but allegedly defrauded writers by impersonating other people in the industry.
He was arrested on Wednesday as he arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport, and will appear in a federal court in Manhattan on Thursday.
Michael Driscoll, assistant director-in-charge of the New York FBI office, said in a statement:
“Unpublished manuscripts are works of art to the writers who spend the time and energy creating them. Publishers do all they can to protect those unpublished pieces because of their value.
“Mr. Bernardini was allegedly trying to steal other people’s literary ideas for himself, but in the end he wasn’t creative enough to get away with it.”
Bernardini would apparently create fake websites and email accounts to make it look like he was someone else- impersonating talent agents and other people at publishing houses. He eventually had accumulated over 160 internet domains designed to be “confusingly similar” to real the websites.
He would then tell authors to sign up, entering a username and password, which was then automatically sent to his own email address.
Simon & Schuster UK has since suspended Bernardini while the investigation is underway, saying they are “shocked and horrified” to learn about the allegations.
Bernardini faces a lengthy prison sentence if convicted. He has plead not guilty and has bail set for $300,000.