An Italian man admits to cheating famous writers and stealing drafts of their unpublished books

An Italian man admits to cheating famous writers and stealing drafts of their unpublished books

An Italian man admits to cheating famous writers and stealing drafts of their unpublished books

  • George Wright
  • BBC News

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Margaret Atwood previously claimed there was a “concerted effort to steal a draft of her book The Testaments”.

An Italian man has admitted to stealing more than 1,000 unpublished draft books written and authored by several prominent authors.

The man named Filippo Bernardini took on the names of several figures in the publishing industry to get people to entrust their work to him.

He used his knowledge of the ins and outs of the publishing industry, the information and experience he had gained while working for the major publisher Simon & Schuster in London.

Bernardini, 30, in New York, pleaded guilty to fraud but his motives were never clear.

No drafts of the books were found to be leaked or posted online, and no ransom was demanded for them.

The conviction of Bernardini, who was arrested by the FBI in January last year, seems to explain a mystery that has puzzled the literary world for years after novelists Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Sally Rooney were targeted.

Prosecutors said the defendant had registered more than 160 fake domains and websites since 2016.

Booker Prize literary agents, editors and jurors have all been victims of phishing scams from slightly altered, semi-official email addresses requesting draft books and works by authors, including Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood.

In an interview with British magazine The Boxels in 2019, Atwood confirmed that there had been a “concerted effort to steal drafts” prior to the publication of her book The Manscript.

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Among his victims was Booker Prize-winning novelist Margaret Atwood

“There were a lot of fake emails from people trying to steal just three pages or something like that,” she noted.

Daniel Sandstrom, editor of Swedish publishing house Albert Bonners Furlag, who was among the victims, said it was difficult to see the motive behind the scam.

“The literary answer to that question, I think, is that someone did it for the thrill of it, and there’s a psychological mystery behind that story,” he told the BBC.

And he added, “The less romantic answer is, that this was someone who liked to feel important and that he pulled all the strings in the game, and that was a ploy to make that happen.”

Although Bernardini worked for Simon & Schuster, there was no indication of the publisher’s fault and it was not mentioned in the legal papers.

“We are grateful to the FBI and the Justice Department for their advocacy and support for the intellectual property rights of authors around the world,” the publisher said in a statement Friday.

Bernardini’s trial is scheduled for April. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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