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Book Thief Evades Prison Time and Will Pay $88,000 in Restitution Filippo Bernardini pleaded guilty to stealing more than 1,000 unpublished manuscripts in an elaborate phishing scheme.

By Madeline Garfinkle Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Non-fiction books published by Random House sit on display at the company's U.K. headquarters in London, U.K.

For almost six years, Filippo Bernardini carried out an elaborate scheme with an unusual motive: reading unpublished work before it hit the shelves.

Starting in at least 2016, Bernardini, 30, used more than 160 fraudulent email domains of real editors, agents and publishing professionals to trick authors into sending him their unpublished manuscripts.

Bernardini used the fraudulent domains to impersonate those close to the authors, demonstrating extensive knowledge of how the publishing world works and who might have access to an author's material. During his almost six-year stint of scamming, Bernardini stole more than 1,000 manuscripts.

Unlike most scammers, Bernardini's motive was void of monetary aspirations. Instead, the Italian bookworm and former publishing employee simply wanted to read the work before anyone else.

Related: A Retired Teacher and Her Daughter Were Scammed Out of $200,000 Over Email: 'I'm 69 Years Old and Now I'm Broke and Homeless'

In a letter to Colleen McMahon, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, Bernardini admitted that he never leaked the manuscripts but rather wanted to "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," he added.

Bernardini faced up to 21 months in prison, but after pleading guilty, the court ordered him to be deported to either of his former residencies — the UK or Italy — and pay $88,000 in restitution to Penguin Random House instead of doing jail time.

Although Bernardini's scam did not result in any manuscripts being leaked or sold illegally, hundreds of authors were affected by his elaborate ruse to obtain unpublished work.

"You feel violated," one of Bernardini's victims, James Hannaham, told The New York Times in 2020 before Bernardini was caught. "I don't want anyone to know how bad the early drafts of things are."

Madeline Garfinkle

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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