Maker of offending film named as southern Californian bank fraudster
Federal authorities in the US last night named Nakoula Basseley, 55, a southern California man once convicted of financial crimes, as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film Innocence of Muslims, which has caused anger across the Islamic world.
A law enforcement official said Nakoula was connected to the persona of Sam Bacile, a figure who initially claimed to be the writer and director of the film. When contacted this week, Bacile initially claimed a Jewish and Israeli background. But evidence mounted that the key player was a southern Californian Coptic Christian.
Nakoula said in an interview near Los Angeles on Wednesday that he managed logistics for the company that produced Innocence of Muslims, which mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
He denied he was Bacile and insisted he did not direct the film. But federal court papers filed against Nakoula in a 2010 prosecution said that he had used many aliases in the past.
Nakoula admitted bank fraud charges in California in 2010 and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
American actors who appeared in Innocence of Muslims issued a statement saying they were misled about the project and alleged some of their dialogue was dubbed during post-production.
One of the actors, Cindy Lee Garcia, said the film was originally titled Desert Warriors and did not contain offensive references to Islam.
“When I found out this movie had caused all this havoc, I called Sam and asked him why did he do this? And he said, ‘Because I’m tired of the radical Muslims running around killing everyone’.”
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