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Man accused of stealing unpublished books pleads guilty in New York

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An Italian man pleaded guilty on Friday in New York to a charge he impersonated editors and agents in order to steal unpublished book manuscripts of authors like Margaret Atwood and the actor Ethan Hawke, and claim the works as his own.

Filippo Bernardini, who had worked at Simon & Schuster in London, entered his plea to one count of wire fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in federal court in Manhattan, the defendant’s lawyer said.

Bernardini could face 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 years in prison under recommended sentencing guidelines at his scheduled April 5 sentencing before another judge.

Prosecutors said Bernardini, who had been a Simon & Schuster rights coordinator, had since 2016 created fake email addresses and registered more than 160 bogus domain names to impersonate publishing professionals and mask his identity.

They said Bernardini would often replace a lower case “m” with an “rn,” so that “simonandschuster” might appear as “sirnonandschuster,” for example.

Prosecutors said the defendant also obtained an unpublished manuscript from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author by impersonating a well-known Simon & Schuster editor.

Hannah McCrea, the federal public defender representing Bernardini, declined to comment on the plea.

The defendant had pleaded not guilty to wire fraud and an aggravated identity theft charge one year ago, following his arrest upon arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Simon & Schuster was not accused of wrongdoing. The publisher did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Bernardini’s plea.

The case is U.S. v. Bernardini, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 21-cr-00458.

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