The arrest of the infamous so-called ‘book spine collector’ seems to have put an end to a major scam in international book land. With forged (domain) names and e-mail addresses, the suspect Filippo Bernardini reportedly managed to steal hundreds of unpublished manuscripts, hoping for that one golden idea he could pick up.
Among the stolen manuscripts were stories from the likes of Hollywood actor Ethan Hawke, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and Margaret Atwood, one of Canada’s foremost contemporary writers. The 29-year-old Italian, who lives in London and has worked for publisher Simon & Schuster since 2019, stole the manuscripts in hopes of stumbling upon a golden story that he could use to self-publish a book.
Benardini was arrested by the FBI yesterday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. “Mr. Benardini stole other people’s literary ideas, but in the end he wasn’t creative enough to disappear,” prosecutor Michael J. Driscoll said after the arrest. The thief is charged with fraud and identity theft and his sentence could be up to 20 years in prison, reports AP news agency.
The Italian, “obsessed with the written word” according to his LinkedIn profile, started his fraud in August 2016. He was still working for a publisher in his home country. Bernardini pretended to be existing publishers or literary agents and hoped that authors would send him their manuscripts.
Before that, he used fake email addresses and associated domain names. For example, he used email addresses that belonged to the domain name penguinrandornhouse.com. The ‘rn’ had to pass for the ‘m’ of the well-known publisher Penguin Random House.
Hundreds of manuscripts
All those years people in the international book world wondered who the mysterious ‘book spine collector’ was. It had to be someone with knowledge of the state of affairs within the publishing world. Until July of this year, the man collected hundreds of manuscripts. The funny thing was that they did not appear on the black market or in book form, but were lost.
Publisher Simon & Schuster said in a statement it was “shocked” to learn of the allegations of fraud and identity theft by an employee. Bernadini has been suspended by the company with immediate effect.
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