Verdict passed on manuscript thief

Felippo Bernardini, the former rights coordinator at Simon & Schuster UK who was arrested for stealing manuscripts by impersonating publishers, editors and agents, has been ordered to be deported and to pay $88,000 to Penguin Random House, one of the publishers affected.  He received the verdict at the Federal District Court in Manhattan.  The fine is to cover PRH’s legal costs; Bernardini now faces being deported either to the UK or Italy

The verdict brings to a close one of publishing’s strangest stories.

It began three years ago when it emerged that Bernadini had used email addresses that were very similar to genuine ones.  He received manuscripts of new works from authors like Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood, as well as lesser-known writers.  It is still unclear why Bernadini stole the manuscripts since there was no financial gain.

In a letter to the court he said: “I never wanted to and I never leaked these manuscripts,” he wrote. “I wanted to keep them close to my chest and be one of the fewest to cherish them before anyone else, before they ended up in bookshops. There were times where I read the manuscripts and I felt a special and unique connection with the author, almost like I was the editor of that book.”

But prosecutors argued that Bernardini’s impersonation and theft caused “real reputational, emotional and financial harm to his victims.  He continued in this criminal conduct for years, even as his victims confronted him, accusing him of theft and crimes, and even as his scheme attained public notice”.