Man Accused of Collecting Hundreds of Unpublished Books From Big-Name Authors

Authorities say they've solved a publishing mystery with the arrest of Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen, accused of numerous literary heists and allegedly impersonating members in the publishing industry for years.

According to Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, police arrested Bernardini Wednesday after his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was expected to appear in federal court on Thursday.

"Bernardini allegedly impersonated publishing industry individuals in order to have authors, including a Pulitzer prize winner, send him prepublication manuscripts for his own benefit," Williams said in the statement.

Bernardini, 29, faces federal criminal charges, including wire fraud, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment against Bernardini, filed in July but unsealed on Wednesday, the schemes took place from August 2016 through July 2021.

This ongoing mystery continued to confuse publishing industry members for years. According to the indictment, Bernardini collected hundreds of unpublished works throughout the scheme impersonating authors, editors, managers and publishers. Targeted works include manuscripts written by Margaret Atwood, Ethan Hawke, Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr, Jennifer Egan, as well as novice writers. However, Bernardini never attempted to sell any of these works, but seemed to hold on to them.

The indictment states Bernardini "has been involved in the publishing industry in London, United Kingdom, and he currently works as a Rights Coordinators for a major, international, U.S.-based publishing house." According to the Associated Press, a Linked In page for Filippo B, an account believed to belong to Bernardini, states he has an "obsession for the written word" and lists him as a rights coordinator for Simon & Schuster.

Additionally, Bernardini impersonated a New York City-based scouting company to obtain information about upcoming books and received hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.

Filippo Bernardini Book Scheme
Bernardini allegedly impersonated publishing industry individuals and obtained unpublished manuscripts for his own benefit. A person consults books in the Pergamo bookstore on December 31, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. The Libreria Pergamo (Pergamo Book Shop) will close its doors after 76 years of trading on January 5th, 2022 as the owner Lourdes is retiring from work at 80 years old. Recently the Spanish Confederation of the Booksellers Guild and Associations (CEGAL) say that bookstores have had an estimated growth of 17%, with 2021 being one of the best in the last 10 years, thanks in part to the boom in graphic novels. Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

According to the indictment, Bernardini "used fraudulent, look-alike, domains to impersonate individuals involved in the publishing industry to gain surreptitious access to these materials," and that over the years, he "impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals."

In a statement, a member from the publishing house said it was "shocked and horrified to learn today of the allegations of fraud and identity theft by an employee of Simon & Schuster UK."

The publisher said Bernardini had been suspended pending additional information, adding, "The safekeeping of our authors' intellectual property is of primary importance to Simon & Schuster, and for all in the publishing industry, and we are grateful to the FBI for investigating these incidents and bringing charges against the alleged perpetrator."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.