The man accused by the FBI of stealing hundreds of book manuscripts may not stand trial, under an agreement between prosecutors and his lawyers.
Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen who worked for British publisher Simon & Schuster, was arrested in the United States in January, with the FBI alleging he had “impersonated, defrauded and attempted to defraud hundreds of ‘individuals’ for unpublished works and drafts. The indictment said Bernardini had registered more than 160 fake internet domains to impersonate others since 2016.
Bernardini, who has been charged with wire fraud and aggravated impersonation, was due to appear in court in early July. In June, however, the judge in his case, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon, agreed to postpone the appearance so prosecutors could consider a request for a deferred prosecution, according to Publisher Marketplace.
A Deferred Prosecution Agreement is typically used in fraud or financial crime cases. This is an agreement in which the lawsuit is conditionally stayed while the defendant fulfills the terms of the agreement within a specified period of time. It is supervised by a judge and could consist in the obligation for Bernardini to pay fines or indemnities, or in the adoption of other measures. The judge adjourned the case until September 10.
Bernardini previously pleaded not guilty to both counts, reported the bookstore.
Hundreds of manuscripts have been stolen over a five-year period, with authors, agents, publishers, scouts and even Booker Prize judges among the victims of phishing scams. Manuscripts of highly anticipated novels by Margaret Atwood, Sally Rooney and actor Ethan Hawke were among the targets.
The publishing numbers were tweaked by slight changes in email addresses, such as the use of “r” and “n” to make “m”, as in @penguinrandornhouse.com. But none of the manuscripts were ever released for sale and no ransom demands were ever sent, leaving many confused as to the motives of those behind the phishing scam.
At the time of his arrest, Bernardini was working as a rights coordinator at Simon & Schuster UK. He was suspended by the company after his arrest, and Simon & Schuster was not named in the indictment or charged with wrongdoing.