Publisher Sues Over Mob-Novel Scam
Aug. 28, 2002
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NEW YORK (AP) _ A novel about the inner workings of the Mafia was apparently too well invented.
Simon & Schuster is suing a Hollywood talent agency, accusing it of misrepresenting an author who sold ``The Honored Society'' under the auspices that he was Michael Gambino, grandson of mobster Carlo Gambino.
The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court last week against Artists Management Group of Los Angeles, seeks a return of the $500,000 the company paid author Michael Pellegrino plus damages.
``AMG failed to disclose facts unavailable to S&S concerning Pellegrino,'' the court papers read. ``Were such facts disclosed to S&S, S&S would not have agreed to contract with Pellegrino for the Work.''
Major publishers often leave fact checking duties to authors and agents. A Simon & Schuster spokesman, Adam Rothberg, said Wednesday that ``we do hundreds, thousands of deals with agents, and we rely on them to bring us properties and authors who are authentic.''
Simon & Schuster, which released ``The Honored Society'' last November, has stopped shipping the novel and has informed stores that they can return it. Rothberg said no decision had been made about whether readers could be refunded. According to Neilsen BookScan, which tracks sales, the novel has sold 21,289 copies.
The publisher had billed the author as ``the highest ranking mob member ever to record the innermost workings of the Honored Society.''
At the time of the sale, Artists Management Group was run by Michael Ovitz, who has since sold the firm. The literary agent who worked on the deal was Joel Gotler.
Neither Gotler, who no longer works for the firm, or the talent agency's lawyers immediately returned calls for comment. Efforts to reach Pellegrino on Wednesday weren't immediately successful
The lawsuit was first reported Wednesday in the New York Post.
Pellegrino, who lives in Las Vegas, claimed he was Michael Gambino, the name that appears on the book jacket. Inside, the author claimed to have spent 12 years in prison for murder, kidnapping, extortion, gambling and pimping.
In the fictionalized account, supposedly based on his real-life experiences, the author tells of how he vowed to turn his back on the family while in jail.
The late Carlo Gambino does have a grandson named Michael. He is 16 and attends high school in New York.