Man pleads guilty to book fraud scheme in US court

An Italian man, Filippo Bernardini, accused of obtaining more than 1,000 book manuscripts fraudulently before they were published entered a guilty plea before a US court on Friday.

The 30-year-old publishing industry worker formerly living in London, faces one charge of wire fraud for engineering a multi-year scheme to target up-and-coming writers as well as big names like Canada’s Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale. Among the authors caught up in the scheme were US actor Ethan Hawke and British Booker Prize-winner Ian McEwan.

He faces up to 20 years in prison for the scheme. At Friday’s hearing, Bernardini also agreed to pay $88,000 in restitution. His sentencing hearing is set for April 5 in the courtroom of US District Judge Colleen McMahon.

“Unpublished manuscripts are works of art to the writers who spend the time and energy creating them,” said Michael Driscoll, assistant director-in-charge of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York office.

In a statement on Friday, US District Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams praised law enforcement and prosecutors for writing “the final chapter to Bernardini’s manuscript theft scheme”.

“This real-life storyline now reads as a cautionary tale,” Williams had said previously, “with the plot twist of Bernardini facing federal criminal charges for his misdeeds”.


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