LOS ANGELES - The controversial anti-Islam film was produced and directed by a convicted drug manufacturer and scam artist in southern California, federal authorities have revealed, Reuters reported on Friday, September 14.
Authorities announced that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, has been linked by news organizations to production of the low-budget anti-Islam film clip.
Titled Innocence of Muslims, the film, set in the modern era, shows an Egyptian Coptic Christian fleeing from an angry Muslim mob. Egyptian police looked on while the mob smashed up a clinic where a Christian doctor worked.
The film was posted on YouTube in June but drew attention last week when an Egyptian-American Copt produced a trailer in an Arabic-language blog post and e-mail newsletter publicizing the movie.
The movie was promoted by US pastor Terry Jones, who angered Muslims in 2010 with plans to burn the Noble Qur'an.
Jones called the film a "satirical" movie on the life of the Muslim Prophet, saying he showed a promotional video trailer after staging a symbolic "trial" of the Prophet.
Nakoula has been known to federal law enforcement for other reasons long before the anti-Muslim video emerged.
He pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2010 and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, to be followed by five years on supervised probation, court documents showed.
He was released from prison in June 2011, shortly before production began on the video, prison records show.
He was accused of fraudulently opening bank and credit card accounts using Social Security numbers that did not match the names given on applications, according to a criminal complaint.
Nakoula also pleaded guilty in 1997 to possession with intent to manufacture methamphetamine and was sentenced to a year in jail, Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, told Reuters.
Fearing the impact of the film if Copts are linked to it, the Coptic Bishop for Los Angeles told Reuters that Nakoula denied any link to the film.
"He told me that he was not involved in this movie in any way, and I asked him, 'Why did they put your name'" on it? Bishop Serapion told Reuters.
The bishop said Nakoula replied that he was essentially the victim of mistaken identity by the media.
The Los Angeles Coptic diocese issued a statement condemning and disavowing any Coptic association with the film.
"The producers of this movie should be responsible for their actions," the diocese said.
"The name of our blessed parishioners should not be associated with the efforts of individuals who have ulterior motives."
First revelations referred to an American-Israeli real-estate developer, Sam Bacile, as the producer and director of the defamatory film.
Yet, after failing to contact Nakoula directly, Reuters said that it appeared that at least one scene in the video may have been filmed at Nakoula's home.
A distinctive interior front door shown in one scene was nearly indistinguishable from the exterior door at Nakoula's house.
Both have frosted-glass, half-moon-shaped cutouts with stenciled rose designs in the wood double-door entrance.
Another Copt from Virginia, Morris Sadek, offered a telephone number for a man he described as the filmmaker which traced back later to the Nakoula residence.
Sadek had attributed the video to a man he named as Sam Bacile, which was also the name used by an individual who posted a copy of the video in July on YouTube.
But at least two other people linked to the film have said that name was likely a pseudonym.