By now, it looks fairly certain that 56-year-old California resident Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is the main man behind the controversial anti-Islamic film that helped spark numerous protests in the Middle East.But what do we actually know about Nakoula B. Nakoula?
He has a checkered past with the law
Nakoula was has a history of “check-kiting” — whereby you remove money from a bank account before the bank realises it is fraud. In 2010 he was forced to pay $790,000 in fines for federal bank fraud and sentenced to 21 months in prison. The Federal Bureau of Prison’s show he was released in June 2011.
Nakoula’s criminal history goes further than that, however. In 1997 he was charged with intent to manufacture methamphetamine and was sentenced to jail, the Daily Beast reports. He violated probation in 2002 and was forced to return to jail.
He has also had a series of financial problems.
He loves pseudonyms
It is believed that when Nakoula was first contacted by reporters for the AP on Tuesday, he told them he was an Israeli Jew called “Sam Bacile”. This was also the name on the YouTube account that promoted the “Innocence of Muslims” films, and the director of the anti-Muslim film gave various similar names to cast and crew members. If Sam Bacile really is Nakoula, it appears the name is based on his own middle name (when confronted by the AP the following day, Nakoula reportedly used his thumb to cover “Basseley”).
Nakoula denies he is Sam Bacile, though a phone used to contact Bacile was linked to his address by AP reporters.
Apparently if Nakoula is “Bacile” wouldn’t the first time that he used a different name. According to Wired, Nakoula is know to have used at least 14 nicknames: “Matthew Nekola; Ahmed Hamdy; Amal Nada; Daniel K. Caresman; Kritbag Difrat; Sobhi Bushra; Robert Bacily; Nicola Bacily; Thomas J. Tanas; Erwin Salameh; Mark Basseley Youssef; Yousseff M. Basseley; Malid Ahlawi; even P.J. Tobacco.”
He isn’t a very good film maker
Assuming Nakoula is Bacile, the evidence here is pretty obvious — the film itself.
Reports from cast and crew make it sound like Nakoula (or, possibly, Bacile) had little or no film-making experience. One writer who worked on the script described it was “”awful — terribly bloody” to Buzzfeed’s John Herrman. Later an actor who worked on the film emailed Herrman to describe some of the problems during filming:
Red flags included (but were not limited to): the shoddy television studio that we were told was lent to us by an Egyptian Christian media group, payments issued by personal checks and $20 bills straight from the producer’s wallet (he introduced himself under the pseudonym,”Sam”, though the name on the check was much different), and, ultimately, the absence of an official script.
He’s a Coptic Christian
Despite the fact that “Sam Bacile” claimed to be an “Israeli Jew”, Nakoula is — by multiple accounts including his own — a Coptic Christian.
Coptic Christians are the followers of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Egyptian branch of the Orthodox church. This may explain why the trailer for the movie first spread to Egypt (and why the Egyptian government has reacted so angrily to it).
Understandably, California’s Coptic Christian community has moved to distance themselves from the Nakoula and the film — one pastor Business Insider said he knew Nakoula but that he only attended services “infrequently”.
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