The AP’s Elieen Sullivan and Steven Braun report that the man authorities say created the crude anti-Muslim film that contributed to riots across the Middle East had a history of identify theft and used a seemingly endless number of aliases to commit fraud.
Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, of Cerritos, CA, was briefly under police protection early this morning. The Justice Department has opened an international investigation into the events leading up to the deaths of four Americans in Libya, but the AP says it’s not clear whether Nakoula is being investigated.
Meanwhile, Sullivan and Braun have more details about Nakoula’s troubled past:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Leigh Williams said Nakoula set up fraudulent bank accounts using stolen identities and Social Security numbers; then, checks from those accounts would be deposited into other bogus accounts from which Nakoula would withdraw money at ATM machines.
It was “basically a check-kiting scheme,” the prosecutor told the AP. “You try to get the money out of the bank before the bank realises they are drawn from a fraudulent account. There basically is no money.”
Prior to his bank fraud conviction, Nakoula struggled with a series of financial problems in recent years, according to California state tax and bankruptcy records. In June 2006, a $191,000 tax lien was filed against him in the Los Angeles County Recorder of Deeds office. In 1997, a $106,000 lien was filed against him in Orange County.
Among the fake names Nakoula used over the years were Nicola Bacily, Robert Bacily and Erwin Salameh, all similar to the Sam Bacile persona Nakoula initially claimed when contacted by the AP and the Wall Street Journal. Other aliases described in the documents included Ahmad Hamdy, Kritbag Difrat and PJ Tobacco, Sullivan and Braun report.
Wired has uploaded the court documents from his case, and we’ve embedded below:
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