LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The anti-Muslim film implicated in mob protests against U.S. diplomatic missions in the Mideast received logistical help from a man once convicted of financial crimes and featured actors who complained that their inflammatory dialogue was dubbed in after filming.
The self-proclaimed director of "Innocence of Muslims" initially claimed a Jewish and Israeli background. But others involved in the film said his statements were contrived as evidence mounted that the film's key player was a Californian Coptic Christian with a checkered past.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, told The Associated Press Wednesday that he managed logistics for the company that produced "Innocence of Muslims," which mocked Muslims and the prophet Muhammad.
The movie has been blamed for inflaming mobs that attacked U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya this week as well as the U.S. Embassy in Yemen today.
Nakoula denied he'd directed the film, though he said he knew the self-described filmmaker, Sam Bacile. But the cellphone number the AP contacted Tuesday to reach the filmmaker who identified himself as Bacile traced to the same address near Los Angeles where Nakoula was.
Nakoula told the AP he is a Coptic Christian and supported the concerns of Christian Copts about their treatment by Muslims.
The film was implicated in protests that resulted in the burning of the U.S. consulate Tuesday in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. Libyan officials said Wednesday that Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other embassy employees were killed during the mob violence, but U.S. officials now say they are investigating whether the assault was a planned terrorist strike linked to the 11-year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Nakoula denied he had posed as Bacile. Federal court papers filed in a 2010 criminal prosecution against him said Nakoula had used numerous aliases in the past. Among the fake names, the documents said, were Nicola Bacily and Erwin Salameh.
During a conversation outside his home, Nakoula offered his driver's license to show his identity but kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley. Records checks by the AP found that middle name as well as other connections to the Bacile persona.
The AP located Bacile after obtaining his cellphone number from Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who had promoted the anti-Muslim film on his website. Egypt's Coptic Christians have decried a history of discrimination and occasional violence from the Muslim majority.
Pastor Terry Jones, of Gainesville, Fla., who sparked outrage in the Arab world when he burned Qurans on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, said he spoke with the movie's director by phone Wednesday and prayed for him. Jones said he has not met the filmmaker but added that the man contacted him a few weeks ago about promoting the movie. Jones and others who have dealt with the filmmaker said Wednesday that Bacile was hiding his real identity.
"I have not met him. Sam Bacile, that is not his real name," Jones said. "I just talked to him on the phone. He is definitely in hiding and does not reveal his identity. He was quite honestly fairly shook up concerning the events and what is happening. A lot of people are not supporting him. He was generally a little shook up concerning this situation."
The YouTube account under the username "Sam Bacile," used to publish excerpts of the movie including this defense on Tuesday of the film written in Arabic: "It is a 100 percent American movie, you cows."
Nakoula, who talked guardedly about his role, 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 ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Leigh Williams said Nakoula set up fraudulent bank accounts using stolen identities and Social Security numbers; he then would deposit checks from those accounts into other bogus accounts from which Nakoula would withdraw money at ATMs. 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 realizes they are drawn from a fraudulent account. There basically is no money."
American actors and actresses who appeared in "Innocence of Muslims" issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they were misled about the project and alleged that some of their dialogue was crudely dubbed during post-production.
In the English-language version of the trailer, direct references to Muhammad appear to be the result of post-production changes to the movie. Either actors aren't seen when the name "Muhammad" is spoken in the overdubbed sound, or they appear to be mouthing something else.