England

Italy’s Filippo Bernardini arrested at JFK Airport in New York, charged with wire fraud, identity theft

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Filippo Bernardini, 29, of Italy was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, New York, United States on January 5, 2022. Charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, he will be presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger in federal court in Manhattan, New York City on January 6, 2022.

An Italian citizen, Bernardini moved to London, England, United Kingdom in August 2016 and started working in the publishing industry. Since then, he has allegedly been impersonating agents, editors and other individuals involved in publishing to fraudulently obtain valuable prepublication manuscripts.

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“We allege Mr. Bernardini used his insider knowledge of the industry to get authors to send him their unpublished books and texts by posing as agents, publishing houses and literary scouts,” Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York Office assistant director-in-charge Michael J. Driscoll stated. “Mr. Bernardini was allegedly trying to steal other people’s literary ideas for himself, but in the end he wasn’t creative enough to get away with it.”

Bernardini allegedly created fake email accounts that were designed to impersonate real people employed in the publishing industry by registering more than 160 internet domains crafted to be confusingly similar to the real entities that they were impersonating, including minor typographical errors. He is also accused of engaging in a phishing scheme to surreptitiously gain access to a database maintained by a literary scouting company based in New York City.

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In or about July 2020, Bernardini allegedly impersonated a literary scouting company employee and emailed two individual, directing them to his look-alike webpage and prompting the users to provide their usernames and passwords. His webpage was programmed to automatically forward the input usernames and passwords to an email account controlled by him.

In or about September 2020, Bernardini allegedly used a fraudulent email address impersonating a well-known editor and publisher who worked for an imprint of a U.S. publishing house. Impersonating the editor, the Italian citizen emailed a Pulitzer Prize winning author and requested a copy of a word version of the author’s forthcoming manuscript, which the author sent to him, believing him to be the editor he impersonated. 

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