Law enforcement agents have identified the man behind the film "Innocence of Muslims," that is causing outrage across the Islamic world, as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a former meth maker and bank fraudster with a string of aliases, including P.J. Tobacco.
According to AP, a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Nakoula is now believed to be same person as Sam Bacile who told the AP he was the writer and director of the film. Bacile had also earlier told The Wall Street Journal that he was an Israeli Jew living in California. But officials concluded that the Bacile identity was false after they found there is no record of any one with that name. AP traced a cellphone number Bacile used to a house in southern California where reporters found Nakoula and interviewed him.
Although police have identified Nakoula as the producer of the now world famous film, in an interview with AP, he denied that he was Sam Bacile.
The Daily Mail reports that court papers show Nakoula had served 21 months in prison in 2009 after he was convicted of bank fraud.
According to The Daily Beast, the Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Leigh Williams said Nakoula set up fraudulent bank accounts using various stolen identities and Social Security numbers. He would deposit cheques from accounts under names such as Mark Basseley, Youseff M. Basseley, Nicola Bacily and Erwin Salameh, into other accounts from which he would withdraw money at ATM machines before the cheques bounce. According to Leigh, it was "basically a check-kiting scheme. You try to get the money out of the bank before the bank realizes they are drawn from a fraudulent account. There basically is no money."
The Daily Mail reports he pleaded guilty to a charge of felony bank fraud in June 2009 and was sentenced in June 2010. He spent part of his sentence in a halfway house and was released in June 2011, after a violation of parole in 2010.
According to The Daily Beast, earlier in 1997, he was charged with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to a year in jail and three years probation. He violated the probation in 2002 and spent another year in prison.
ABC News reports he is now living in fear or retaliation in his home in Cerritos, California under police protection.
According to The Daily Mail, a neighbor confirmed that he lives in the house with his wife and three children. The neighbor also said she saw at least six police cars outside the house on the night of September 13. The neighbor said: "The police were here, they were all outside and then they went in - six or more police cars I would say [at] about 7pm last night... I think the police left before 10pm."
The neighbor, according to The Daily Mail, said Nakoula has three children, a boy and a girl, who are in college, and a 14-year-old son. The neighbor said: "I usually talk to the wife, her name is Olivia. They have three kids, [two] in college and one in middle school." The neighbor said the two of the children had Egyptian names. . She said: "All I know is they're Christian but very nice people."
According to The Daily Mail, some acquaintances of the family say the authorities and the media probably have the wrong man.They allege that the family members are "all laughing about this," even though they live in fear of reprisal.
A family friend who said he is a friend of Nakoula's son Abanoub, said he thought the idea that the father was a convicted drug dealer and fraudster was "ridiculous." He said: "It is the right name but the wrong family. Somebody who was involved in the film has the same name as the father. It’s a case of mistaken identity."
Law enforcement agents, however, insist he is the man behind the film and the Daily Mail reports there is only one "Nakoula Basseley Nakoula" in public records.
The making of 'Innocence of Muslims'
According The Smoking Gun, a 2009 production notice that described the film as a low budget "indie feature" with “flashbacks of history of early warriors,” indicates Nakoula had planned to shoot the film in 2009 but he was forced to suspend his plans after he was arrested for fraud.
He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and five years probation in June 2010. The Smoking Gun reports that after he was released from federal jail in Lompoc, California, he spent three months in a Long Beach halfway house and was freed in December 2010. He was returned to the halfway house after he violated terms of his release, and finally released in June 22, 2011.
The Daily Mail reports production of "Innocence of Muslims" began two months after he was released in June 2011. It is believed he developed much of the script of the film while he was in prison.
The casting of the film includes Sam Basseley as producer, Alan Roberts as director and Abanob Nakula as costume designer. The names are believed to be aliases. AP reports: "When reporters visited the man's home, he showed his driver's license as proof of his identity - but kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley. He added that he was a Coptic Christian - followers of the faith from Egypt - and said the film's director supported the concerns of Copts and their treatment by Muslims."
Actors denounce 'Innocence of Muslims'
According to The Smoking Gun, the film was shot last August at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita. Nakoula was known to the crew as Sam Bassily, with several variations to the spelling of the name.
The film pokes fun at Muslims and the Prophet Mohammad, portraying him as a sex maniac and pedophile. Hillary Clinton, in a statement, described the film as "disgusting and reprehensible," with the intention to "provoke rage."
A 14-minute trailer of the movie was posted online under the YouTube account "Sam Bacile." (see trailer above). According to The Smoking Gun, it was apparently screened only once on June 30 at Hollywood's Vine Theater. A comment posted in the YouTube account defended the movie, saying: "It is a 100 percent American movie, you cows."
Actors who took part in the film allege they were deceived about the film. They said they were made to believe the film was titled, "Desert Warrior," and that it was a "historical desert drama set in Middle East." They claim that post production editing of the video smuggled in inflammatory message they knew nothing about. The cast of the movie, in a statement released to CNN, said: "The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose."
Gawker reports one of the actresses, Cindy Lee Garcia, said: "I called Sam and said, 'Why did you do this?' and he said, 'I'm tired of radical Islamists killing each other. Let other actors know it's not their fault."' She said: "I had nothing to do really with anything. Now we have people dead because of a movie I was in. It makes me sick."
But a man, Steve Klein, reportedly a Christian activist, who was involved in the film remained unrepentant. He argued that the film makers were not to blame for the deaths. He said the film "told the truth." According to Klein, the film was targeted at American Muslims, with the intention to stop them from gaining power to "attack their host country." Klein said: "I feel bad for the death of the ambassador - he didn’t do anything to anybody - but it’s not our fault. We didn’t want anybody to get killed but on the other hand the truth had to come out. We told the truth and these people reacted the way that Mohammad wanted to them to react - by killing people. Do I feel guilt? Yes, but not for me, I feel it for those that did this. Do I feel shame? Yes, but not for me. Killing this man fits in with their legal and ethical standpoint."
AP reports that The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says Klein is a former Marine and religious-right activist who has trained paramilitary groups at a California church. According to the SPLC, Klein is the founder of Courageous Christians United, an anti-abortion group that also protests against Mormons and Muslims.
Meanwhile, the controversial Pastor Terry Jones from Gainesville, Florida, best known for burning the Koran, has expressed support for the film, saying he would promote it on his website. He said: "Tonight after International Judge Mohammad Day we will be showing the Mohammad Movie Trailer, a video promoting the movie, 'Innocence of Muslims.' It is an American production, not designed to attack Muslims but to show the destructive ideology of Islam. The movie further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad." He added: "I have not met him. Sam Bacile, that is not his real name [but] I just talked to him on the phone. He is definitely in hiding and does not reveal his identity. He was quite honestly fairly shook up concerning the events and what is happening. A lot of people are not supporting him."
The Daily Mail reports that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, Gen. Martin Dempsey, called Jones and asked him to not to support the film, saying it would only trigger more violence.