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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 6, 2023

Italian Citizen Pleads Guilty To Multi-Year Manuscript Theft And Impersonation Scheme

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that FILIPPO BERNARDINI pled guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with a multi-year scheme to impersonate individuals involved in the publishing industry in order to fraudulently obtain more than one thousand prepublication manuscripts of novels and other forthcoming books.  The defendant pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.  The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced on April 5, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Filippo Bernardini used his insider knowledge of the publishing industry to create a scheme that stole precious works from authors and menaced the publishing industry.  Through impersonation and phishing schemes, Bernardini was able to obtain more than a thousand manuscripts fraudulently.  I commend the career prosecutors of this Office as well as our law enforcement partners for writing the final chapter to Bernardini’s manuscript theft scheme.” 

According to statements and filings in federal court:

Beginning in at least August 2016 and continuing through his January 2022 arrest, BERNARDINI, who was based in London and worked in the publishing industry, impersonated agents, editors, and other individuals involved in publishing to fraudulently obtain prepublication manuscripts.  In carrying out this scheme, BERNARDINI created fake email accounts that were designed to impersonate real people employed in the publishing industry, including literary talent agencies, publishing houses, literary scouts, and others.  BERNARDINI created these accounts by registering more than 160 internet domains that were crafted to be confusingly similar to the real entities that they were impersonating, including only minor typographical errors that would be difficult for the average recipient to identify during a cursory review.  Over the course of this scheme, BERNARDINI impersonated hundreds of distinct people and engaged in hundreds of unique efforts to fraudulently obtain electronic copies of manuscripts that he was not entitled to.  BERNARDINI obtained more than a thousand manuscripts through fraud.

In addition, BERNARDINI engaged in a phishing scheme to surreptitiously gain access to a database maintained by a New York City-based literary scouting company (“Scouting Company-1”).  BERNARDINI created a webpage that impersonated Scouting Company-1’s website.  Then, in or about July 2020, BERNARDINI impersonated a Scouting Company-1 employee and emailed two individuals, directing them to BERNARDINI’s look-alike webpage and prompting the users to provide their usernames and passwords.  BERNARDINI’s webpage was programmed to automatically forward the input usernames and passwords to an email account controlled by BERNARDINI.  BERNARDINI obtained the login information of approximately 20 users.

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FILIPPO BERNARDINI, 30, of London, United Kingdom, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  As part of his guilty plea, BERNARDINI agreed to pay restitution of $88,000. 

The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Williams praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Nessim is in charge of the prosecution.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Contact: 
Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
23-004
Updated January 6, 2023