The new year is already off to a bizarre start (though it could have been even weirder). So here’s another news story that’s perhaps too random even to be considered Mad Libs-y: As per The New York Times, the FBI arrested a young man who had allegedly been scamming hundreds of people in the publishing industry out of unpublished manuscripts by the likes of Ethan Hawke and Margaret Atwood. Why? The feds will have to figure that one out, too.
That man is Filippo Bernardini, a 29-year-old who works as a rights coordinator for Simon & Schuster UK, who over the span of five years “impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals” out of hundreds of manuscripts. He’s been charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Bernardini certainly went above and beyond:
According to the indictment, to get his hands on the manuscripts, Mr. Bernardini would send out emails impersonating real people working in the publishing industry — a specific editor, for example — by using fake email addresses. He would employ slightly tweaked domain names like penguinrandornhouse.com instead of penguinrandomhouse.com, — putting an “rn” in place of an “m.” The indictment said he had registered more than 160 fraudulent internet domains that impersonated publishing professionals and companies.
Mr. Bernardini also targeted a New York City-based literary scouting company. He set up impostor login pages that prompted his victims to enter their usernames and passwords, which gave him broad access to the scouting company’s database.
Bernardini’s phishing emails spanned the globe, hitting targets in the United States, Sweden, and Taiwan. The case has haunted the publishing industry for years, and it was so wide-spread, NYT pointed out, that some assumed it couldn’t possibly have been the work of one person. Not only is no motive yet known, but it’s not clear what Bernardini did with his pilfered manuscripts. None showed up on the black market or the dark web, and ransom demands were never issued. Perhaps the guy just really wanted some free books.