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F.B.I. Arrests Man Accused of Stealing Unpublished E book Manuscripts

They had been perplexing thefts, missing a transparent motive or payoff, and so they occurred within the genteel, not significantly profitable world of publishing: Somebody was stealing unpublished book manuscripts.

The thefts and tried thefts occurred primarily over e-mail, by a fraudster impersonating publishing professionals and concentrating on authors, editors, brokers and literary scouts who might need drafts of novels and different books.

The thriller could also be solved. On Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Filippo Bernardini, a 29-year-old publishing skilled, saying that he “impersonated, defrauded, and tried to defraud, lots of of people” over 5 or extra years, acquiring lots of of unpublished manuscripts within the course of.

Mr. Bernardini, who was arrested this afternoon after touchdown at John F. Kennedy Worldwide Airport, was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identification theft in america District Courtroom for the Southern District of New York. It was not clear whether or not he had a lawyer.

Mr. Bernardini, an Italian citizen, labored as a rights coordinator for a serious worldwide writer in London, based on the indictment. On his Twitter bio, he mentioned he labored for Simon & Schuster U.Okay.

Simon & Schuster didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. It was not accused of wrongdoing within the indictment.

In accordance with the indictment, to get his arms on the manuscripts, Mr. Bernardini would ship out emails impersonating actual individuals working within the publishing trade — a selected editor, for instance — through the use of pretend e-mail addresses. He would make use of barely tweaked domains like penguinrandornhouse.com as an alternative of penguinrandomhouse.com, — placing an “rn” instead of an “m.” The indictment mentioned he had registered greater than 160 fraudulent web domains that impersonated publishing professionals and firms.

Mr. Bernardini additionally focused a New York Metropolis-based literary scouting firm attempting to realize entry to its database, which cataloged upcoming initiatives, movie rights and the way a lot proposals had bought for. He arrange impostor login pages that prompted his victims to enter their usernames and passwords, which gave Mr. Bernardini broad entry to the scouting firm’s database.

Many in publishing who obtained the phishing emails famous that whoever wrote them was clearly conversant in the trade. The thief would generally use widespread shorthand, like “ms” for manuscript, and understood how a ebook bought from one level to the subsequent on its strategy to publication.

For years, the scheme has baffled individuals within the publishing world. Works by high-profile writers and celebrities like Margaret Atwood and Ethan Hawke have been focused, however so have story collections and works by first-time authors. When manuscripts had been efficiently stolen, none of them appeared to indicate up on the black market or the darkish internet. Ransom calls for by no means materialized.

Early data in a rights division could possibly be a bonus for an worker attempting to show his price. Publishers compete and bid to publish work overseas, for instance, and figuring out what’s coming, who’s shopping for what and the way a lot they’re paying might give corporations an edge.

“What he’s been stealing,” mentioned Kelly Farber, a literary scout, “is mainly an enormous quantity of knowledge that any writer anyplace would be capable of use to their benefit.”

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