An Italian man has admitted in a New York court that he impersonated others in stealing more than 1,000 manuscripts. Among the hundreds of victims were Dutch writer Hannah Barefoots, author Margaret Atwood and actor Ethan Hawke.
Filippo Bernardini worked in London for the American publisher Simon & Schuster. He used the knowledge he gained in the publishing world to get his hands on the unpublished manuscripts of known and unknown authors from August 2016 to January 2021.
The 30-year-old Italian was known in the publishing world as a notorious so-called “book collector”. Use over 160 fake domain names and email addresses to pose as publishers and literary agents, among others. The robbery only stopped when FBI agents caught him at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in January last year.
What Bernardini did with the stolen manuscripts remains unclear. His motives are also unknown. According to the plaintiffs, he stole the manuscripts in the hopes of finding gold story that he could use to self-publish a book. “Mr. Benardini stole other people’s literary ideas, but ultimately he just wasn’t creative enough to just disappear with it,” District Attorney Michael Driscoll said after his arrest last year.
None of the authors has been asked for a ransom, and nothing Bernardini stole has ever been posted online. “The thief has been caught,” Barefoots wrote on Instagram last year after his arrest.
Simon & Schuster said last year that the arrest “shocked and dismayed” them. The publisher is not responsible. The company said on Friday that “protecting authors’ intellectual property is a top priority.”
Bernardini, who pleaded innocence last year, could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. The court will announce the verdict against him on April 5.
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