They were confusing thefts that lacked a clear motive or a payoff, and they happened in the posh, not particularly lucrative world of publishing: someone was Theft of unpublished book manuscripts.

The thefts and thefts were mainly via email from a scammer posing as publishing professionals targeting writers, editors, agents and literary scouts who may have drafts of novels and other books.

The riddle can be solved. On Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Filippo Bernardini, a 29-year-old publishing professional, saying he had impersonated, defrauded and tried to defraud hundreds of people and hundreds of unpublished manuscripts over five years or more get in the process.

Mr. Bernardini, arrested this afternoon after landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport, has been charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in the US District Court for the Southern Borough of New York. It wasn’t clear if he had a lawyer.

Mr Bernardini, an Italian national, worked as a rights coordinator for a major international publisher in London, according to the indictment. On his Twitter bio, he said he worked for Simon & Schuster UK

Simon & Schuster did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She was not charged with any wrongdoing in the indictment.

In order to get the manuscripts, according to the indictment, Mr Bernardini sent out e-mails in which he posed as real people who work in the publishing industry – for example a certain editor – using fake e-mail addresses. He would use slightly customized domain names like penguinrandorhouse.com instead of penguinrandomhouse.com – and put an “rn” in place of an “m”. The indictment said he registered more than 160 fraudulent Internet domains posing as publishing professionals and businesses.

Mr. Bernardini also targeted a New York City-based literary scouting company that was trying to gain access to its database that cataloged upcoming projects, film rights, and the selling price of proposals. He set up login pages for scammers asking victims to enter their usernames and passwords, giving Mr. Bernardini full access to the scouting company’s database.

Many publishers who received the phishing emails found that the person who wrote the phishing emails was clearly familiar with the industry. The thief sometimes used common abbreviations such as “ms” for manuscript and understood how a book moved from one point to the next on the way to publication.

The system has been confusing people in the publishing world for years. Works by high-profile writers and celebrities such as Margaret Atwood and Ethan Hawke have been targeted, as have collections of stories and works by first-time authors. When manuscripts were successfully stolen, none of them appeared to appear on the black market or the darknet. Ransom demands never came about.

Early knowledge in a rights department can be beneficial to an employee trying to prove themselves. Publishers compete and offer, for example, to publish works abroad, and knowing what’s coming, who is buying what and how much they are paying could give companies an advantage.

“What he stole,” said Kelly Farber, a literary scout, “is basically a huge amount of information that any publisher, anywhere, could use to their advantage.”



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