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Simon & Schuster employee denies he stole bestseller manuscripts

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Simon & Schuster employee denies he stole bestseller manuscripts



An employee of publishers Simon & Schuster has pleaded not guilty to charges in New York that he posed as literary editors and agents to steal hundreds of authors' unpublished work.

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Filippo Bernardini, 29, was arrested at JFK airport and is charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Legal documents allege he registered more than 160 fake online domains.

Judge Robert Lehrburger rejected a request for him to be detained, setting bail at $300,000 (£221,000).

Mr Bernardini will surrender his passport and submit to electronic monitoring.

Simon & Schuster has not been accused of wrongdoing and is not named in the legal papers. There is no suggestion the publishing house is at fault.

Mr Bernardini was called an "overwhelming" flight risk by assistant US attorney Daniel Nessim, who said the defendant told law enforcement when he was arrested by the FBI: "I'm not a US citizen, how could I be charged in the US?"

But his lawyer, Hannah McCrea, said he could stay with a friend in Manhattan's West Village.

She added: "This is a very humbling experience for the defendant, he intends to take it seriously."

Prosecutors claimed Mr Bernardini, whose LinkedIn entry calls him a rights co-ordinator for Simon & Schuster, would try to gain manuscripts by replacing a lower case "m" with an "rn" so that, for example, "simonandschuster" might appear as "sirnonandschuster."

Mr Bernardini's arrest could explain a mystery that has baffled the literary world for years. Agents, editors and Booker Prize judges have fallen victim to phishing scams from slightly altered official-looking email addresses, requesting manuscripts of works by authors, including prize-winner Margaret Atwood.

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