'Innocence of Muslim' Filmmaker Was on Probation, Restricted From Internet (Exclusive)
'Innocence of Muslims' Filmmaker Was on Probation, Restricted From Internet (Updated)
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, reportedly the filmmaker behind the incendiary "The Innocence of Muslims," is on probation following a conviction for bank fraud which restricts him from using the Internet without official approval, court documents obtained by TheWrap show.
Because his bank fraud involved the use of computers, Nakoula's five-year probation dictates that he "shall not possess or use a device with access to any online service at any location without the prior approval of the Probation Officer," according to the sentencing order from June 20, 2010.
Nakoula has a shady past full of criminal convictions, fake names and questionable finances.
According to court documents obtained by TheWrap, the 55-year-old Nakoula -- a Los Angeles-area Coptic Christian who has been identified as the sole writer, director and financier of the film -- has a decades-long history of legal troubles, most prominently a 2010 banking fraud conviction that led to a 21-month prison sentence in the federal facility in Lompoc.
If it turns out that he uploaded the "Innocence of Muslims" trailer to YouTube, which was done by 'Sam Bacile,' a Nakoula alias, he appears to have violated the terms of his probation by uploading the .trailer.
Nakoula pulled the prison stint -- and was ordered to pay nearly $725,000 in restitution -- for defrauding Wells Fargo Bank, beginning in March 2008. According to an affidavit from U.S. Postal Inspector Eric Shen, a total of 11 accounts connected to Nakoula were flagged as fraudulent, sparking an investigation that ultimately let to Nakoula's imprisonment.
Shen noted in his affidavit that Nakoula -- who has so far only admitted to being involved in the film, not making it -- used numerous aliases, including Thomas Tanas, Ahmed Hamdy, Kritbag Difrat.
Interestingly, two of Nakoula's aliases bore the surname Bacily -- almost identical to that of Sam Bacile, the likely-pseudonymous name given by a man who claimed to be responsible for the film in media interviews earlier this week. ("Bacily" is also similar to Nakoula's middle name, "Basseley.")
Also of note: Nakoula was ordered to be detained between his arrest and trial. The U.S. District Court in Central California, where Nakoula was tried, felt he was a flight risk because of "extensive foreign ties" and because he "allegedly sent large sums of money abroad," among other reasons.
While the bank-fraud conviction is Nakoula's most pronounced legal trouble -- so far -- it's far from the only one. Other court documents obtained by TheWrap indicate several judgments against Nakoula for financial matters going back decades. In 1995, a judge ordered Nakoula to pay $23,000 in a breach-of-contract case in relation to a service station that bore his name. In 2006, Nakoula was again ordered to shell out big when a judge ordered him to pay more than $12,000 to the debt collection agency Patenaude & Felix.