Is The Mysterious Man Behind Muslim Innocence a Convicted Fraudster Named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula?

Sam Bacile, the filmmaker who took credit for the explosive anti-Islam film Muslim Innocence, told the media he was an Israeli, who made the movie with $5 million from 100 Jewish donors. But as we've learned from the actors themselves, nothing about the film is what it seems. All evidence suggests "Sam Bacile" is in fact an Egytian Coptic Christian and convicted fraudster living in California.

Questions are swirling around the identity of Sam Bacile, who has gone into hiding since his film went viral and protests exploded. After he claimed to be an Israeli real estate mogul, an associate said he was actually not Israeli, and "Sam Bacile" was a fake name. Who is this guy, and why did he make such a dumb movie?

Now the AP has tracked down 55-year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who admits that he was involved in the logistics of the film. He denied he's the director or Sam Bacile, but evidence suggests that he and Bacile are the same person. A phone number Nakoula gave the AP that supposedly belonged to "Sam" was traced back to Nakoula's address. A document search by the AP showed Nakoula had used the Bacile persona in the past. And a law enforcement official appeared to confirm today that Nakoula was Sam Bacile. (Not to mention "Basseley" = "Bacile"; Nakoula tried to hide his middle name when the AP asked to see his license.)

Not much is known about Nakoula. He's a Coptic Christian, a crook, and may have violated a court order by participating in the making and distribution of the video. From the AP:

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.

The YouTube account, "Sam Bacile," which was used to publish excerpts of the provocative movie in July, was used to post comments online as recently as Tuesday, including this defense of the film written in Arabic: "It is a 100 percent American movie, you cows."

Nakoula worked with a Christian non-profit called Media for Christ, based in Duarte, Calif., to produce the film, according to film permits reported by the Los Angeles Daily News. LA Weekly dug up an old Media for Christ MySpace page that describes its mission:

The International Media is crowded with many topics that do not bring glory to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ . The Lord has given me the vision for Media for Christ so we could proclaim the peace of Jesus through than effective Christian media that would positively touch everyone . In June 2005 by the grace of God Media for Christ was established to become the light that shows Jesus Christ to all human beings.

Media Christ denied involvement in the film to reporters. But a call sheet we've obtained from the filming in 2011 clearly states that the film, originally called Desert Warriors, is a "MEDIA FOR CHRIST Productions" project.

More to come, we're sure. If you have any more information about Nakoula or Media for Christ, please email me: Adrian@gawker.com

Update: Here's Media for Christ's janky website.