California Man with Previous Fraud Conviction Linked to Anti-Islam Movie Questioned

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian, was interviewed by federal probation officers voluntarily at a sheriff’s station in the LA suburb of Cerritos. The interview lasted about 30 minutes and allegedly revolved around his link to an anti-Islam movie.

The 13-minute English-language movie filmed in California and circulated on the Internet under several titles including “Innocence of Muslims,” mocks the Prophet Mohammad and portrays him as a buffoon.

Nakoula was picked up for his believed involvement in the film as a possible probation violation for a bank fraud conviction. It is said that the filmmaker went by the name, Sam Bacile, which is now believed to be Nakoula.  In 2010, he pleaded guilty to bank fraud and was sentenced to 21 months in prison and five years of supervised probation. He was also was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was accused of fraudulently opening bank and credit card accounts using Social Security numbers that did not match the names on the applications.

Reports show that he was released in June of 2011 and the film was produced later than summer. However, some law enforcement official may consider his making of the movie to be a problem because the terms of his release stated that he could not access the Internet or assume aliases without permission from his probation officer. Since the film was made and shared on YouTube, this would violate his probation if he was truly involved in the film. When you add the use of the alias, there may be a second violation to the probation terms.

Nakoula was not taken in handcuffs or arrested. His interview was voluntary and he seemed to be cooperating with police officials. A senior law enforcement official in Washington has indicated the probation investigation relates to whether Nakoula broke the conditions of his probation. Since the film was done “underground”, they would have to prove his involvement. Someone in his household had been tied to the movie before he was taken in to custody so the logical conclusion would be that it was him or that he is also involved in some way.

It’s also possible that he scammed some of the people involved in the film. An actress has filed a lawsuit to have the video removed from YouTube stating that she was duped into playing the role which later had hate speech dubbed over it. She says the script she was given was not the script that was used in the Anti-Islam film or she would not have participated in it.

His previous crime involved setting up fake bank accounts using stolen identities and Social Security numbers. He then deposited checks from those accounts into other false accounts and pulled the funds out of ATMs, raking in tons of cash.

This leads us to the question of how he had the money to produce this film in the first place. A film crew member said he heard the budget was under $100,000 and that the man he knew as Bacile handled all the funds. .

“He said he raised it himself,” the man told Reuters. “He said he owned gas stations throughout Orange County and all this other stuff, and he said he saved it out of his own pocket.”

This could mean that while on probation, Nakoula also conducted some other type of fraud or illegal activity in order to raise the funds for the film.



Guest post by Lisa Mason, a content marketing specialist who often writes about technology, the Internet and security.