The U.S. Probation Office for the Central District of California is reviewing the case of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the California man most closely tied to the anti-Muslim film blamed for sparking violence and demonstrations in the Middle East this week.
“According to the court, they are reviewing the case,” Karen Redmond, a spokesperson for the U.S. federal court system, told TPM on Friday.
Nakoula, 55, was arrested on federal charges in 2009, and accussed of using multiple false names in running a bank fraud scheme. Among the aliases linked to Nakoula in court documents were: Thomas J. Tanas, PJ Tobacco, Ahmad Hamdy, Kritbag Difrat, Amal Nada, Erwin Salameh, Daniel K. Caresman, Robert Bacily, and Nicola Bacily.
In 2010, Nakoula was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution, sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, and ordered not to use computers, cell phones, or the Internet for five years unless he got an OK from a probation officer. Sentencing documents filed in federal court stipulated that Nakoula also “shall not obtain or possess any driver’s license, Social Security number, birth certificate, passport or any other form of identification in any name, other than the defendant’s true legal name; nor shall the defendant use, for any purpose or in any manner, any name other than his/her true legal name or names without the prior written approval of the Probation Officer.”
The Associated Press on Wednesday tracked down Nakoula at an address linked to a cell phone used by a man who claimed to be called Sam Bacile. Earlier in the week, he had described himself as an Israeli Jew and took credit for directing the film “Innocence of Muslims.” Purported clips of that film were uploaded to YouTube in July under the username “Sam Bacile,” and this week those clips have been described as the spark or at least the pretext for unrest in several Middle Eastern countries. The film has also been linked to a well-known extremist Christian activist in California, and a nonprofit run by a Coptic Christian Egyptian expatriate.
In his interview with the AP, Nakoula admitted to being the manager of the company that created the movie, but denied being Bacile. It was later reported that Nakoula is a gas station owner, and that he declared bankruptcy in 2000. According to The Los Angeles Times, Nakoula periodically attended Coptic churches in the Los Angeles area.
Tim Dax, an actor who appeared in the film, told the Times that he was paid $75 a day for his work, in checks drawn from an account belonging to a Abanob Basseley Nakoula.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com