Nakoula on way to questioning
Photo: Reuters
Feds interview alleged anti-Islam filmmaker
Filmmaker linked to anti-Islamic movie that sparked protests across Muslim world questioned by federal probation officers; man previously served time for using false identities to open 600 credit accounts
A Southern California filmmaker linked to anti-Islamic movie inflaming protests across the Middle East was interviewed by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff's station but was not arrested or detained, authorities said early Saturday.


Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was interviewed at the station in his hometown of Cerritos, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Don Walker said.


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Federal officials have said they were investigating the activities of Nakoula, who has been convicted of financial crimes. If the probation department determines Nakoula violated terms of his release, a judge could send him back to prison.


Nakoula picked up by police (Video: Reuters)    (צילום: רויטרס)


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Walker said Nakoula traveled voluntarily in a squad car with deputies.


"He went to the Cerritos station to talk with probation officers. He's not under any arrest," Walker said.


The deputy said he doesn't have information on the interview or how long it lasted. KNBC-TV reported that Nakoula went to the station early Saturday morning.

יוצר הסרט הובא לחקירה (צילום: רויטרס) 

Nakoula on way to police station (Photo: Reuters)


The TV station said that media had been staking out the home at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Southern California city when the man emerged wearing a coat, hat, scarf and glasses.

There was no answer early Saturday at the federal probation department's California's central district office in Los Angeles.


The probation department is reviewing the case of Nakoula, who was previously convicted on bank fraud charges and was banned from using computers or the Internet as part of his sentence. The review is aimed at learning whether Nakoula violated the terms of his five-year probation.


Federal authorities have identified Nakoula, a self-described Coptic Christian, as the key figure behind "Innocence of Muslims," a film denigrating Islam and the Prophet Muhammad that ignited mob violence against US embassies across the Middle East. A federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday that authorities had connected Nakoula to a man using the pseudonym of Sam Bacile who claimed earlier to be writer and director of the film.

נאקולה והשוטרים מחוץ לביתו (צילום: רויטרס) 

Nakoula outside his home (Photo: Reuters)


Violent protests set off by the film in Libya played a role in mob attacks in Benghazi that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American officials. US Embassy gates in Cairo were breached by protesters and demonstrations against American missions spread to Yemen on Thursday and on Friday to several other countries.


Bank fraud and false identities

Nakoula pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was also sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and was ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.

מחאה עולמית. דגלי ארה"ב וישראל עולים באש בבנגלדש (צילם: רויטרס)

Film set off violent protests. Bangladesh (Photo: Reuters) 


His attorney cited Nakoula's poor health in a bid for leniency and home detention, stating his client suffered from Hepatitis C, diabetes that require twice-daily insulin shots, and other ailments that required more than 10 medications a day, according to a transcript of the sentencing obtained by the AP.


Many records in case remain sealed, but prosecutors sought a longer prison term and noted that he misused some of his own relatives' identities to open 600 fraudulent credit accounts. Nakoula apologized during the proceedings and his attorney James D. Henderson Sr. said Nakoula had learned his lesson.


"He's clearly gotten the message," Henderson said. "I can't imagine him doing anything stupider than what he did here, but what's done is done."


While it was unclear what might have provoked authorities' interest, the filmmaker's use of a false identity and his access to the Internet through computers could be at issue, according to experts in cyber law and the federal probation system. Nakoula, who told the AP that he was logistics manager for the film, was under requirements to provide authorities with records of all his bank and business accounts.

העיתונות מחוץ לביתו של נאקולה (צילום: רויטרס) 

Media outside Nakoula's home (Photo: Reuters)


The probation order authorized in June 2010 warned Nakoula against using false identities. Nakoula was told not to "use, for any purpose or in any manner, any name other than his/her true legal name or names without the prior written approval of the Probation Officer."


Federal prosecutors had charged that Nakoula used multiple false identities in creating 600 fraudulent credit accounts. Several, Nicola Bacily and Erwin Salameh, were similar to the Sam Bacile pseudonym used to set up the YouTube account for the anti-Islamic film. Other pseudonyms used in the accounts ranged from Ahmed Hamdy to P.J. Tobacco.


During an interview with AP, Nakoula denied that he was Sam Bacile, but acknowledged knowing him.




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