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Nakoula Nakoula is Sam Bacile: Classic Hollywood Movie Scam Sets Off Waves of Middle East Protests

The names Sam Bacile, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh all appear to point to a single creator of Innocence of Muslims -- the film that has caused the on-going riots in the Middle East.

Southern California reporters have discovered a complex web of pseudonyms and a potential history of financial fraud, establishing a pattern that points to a classic Hollywood-inspired con game: gathering "investors" (marks) by promising a percentage of gross receipts of a film (the con) that will never be made.

Signs of scam and con abound here. No one in Hollywood has any knowledge of "Sam Bacile," and there are no listings on IMDb for Bacile or Nakoula — virtually impossible even for an unsuccessful writer or producer. Bacile originally gave a brief interview to the AP in which he identified himself as a Jewish real estate developer, launching a firestorm of anti-Israel coverage. The initial scenes in the trailer depict what appear to be uncaring and corrupt Israeli police, qualifying the film as anti-Israel as well as anti-Islam.

A phone number provided by Coptic Christian activist Morris Sadek led to a home in Cerritos, California, a middle-class community approximately 25 miles southeast of Hollywood. When reporters visited the location, a man stating he was Nakoula Basseley Nakoula answered the door, denying he was Bacile. By way of proof he was not Bacile, he showed reporters a California drivers' license with his thumb obscuring the name.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was convicted of bank fraud in 2010, sentenced to 21 months in prison, and ordered to pay $794,700 in restitution. A number of additional pseudonyms were listed on the bank fraud conviction.  

The casting notice for the film is viewable online, listing Sam Bassiel, Producer, and Alan Roberts, as the director. The trailer's costume designer lists Abanob Nakoula and Sam Basselley as co-producers. There are many Alan Roberts on IMDb, but none are active directors with anything like this film listed.

Performers and creative crew for the 14-minute film say they were duped. The casting call is for a film called Desert Warrior, and the main male character is named "George." The 80-member cast and crew has told news outlets they performed in an "Arabic Desert adventure film." They report that the lines they performed were not about Mohammed or Islam. It is obvious from the film trailer that the offensive and bizarre dialog is poorly-dubbed over the original performers.

All of this adds up to many clues pointing toward potential fraud, albeit on a lesser-scale than many recent film scams. In 2011, the FBI broke up a large ring of film scammers led by a former CIA agent that defrauded investors of over $25 million. Other scams operate on a smaller scale, preying on aspiring performers by asking them to pay thousands of dollars to act in films that don't exist.

If Innocence of Muslims was intended to part unsuspecting marks from their cash, it has gone horribly wrong. Bacile, Nakoula, Basselley, or whatever pseudonym he is using these days, has graduated from bank fraud straight to the big time: accessory to murder, and on an international level.

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