With so much media noise about a con artist using more names than Blackwater, who has allegedly kept himself busy in his 55 years with everything from check fraud to producing soft-core pornography, it’s probably wise to take all of the initial reporting on Nakoula Basseley Nakoula with a pillar of salt. That being said, WIRED‘s Danger Room columnist Noah Shachtman has another bizarre addition to the story of this mysterious, and clearly upstanding, public figure:
Before he was involved in the making of a noxious video that provided an excuse for anti-American riots in the Middle East, and before he was convicted of federal bank fraud, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested on charges relating to the making of angel dust.
Court records reviewed by Danger Room show that Nakoula and a co-defendant were brought before the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse in Downey, California on April 15, 1997. They were charged with possessing the narcotic’s chemical precursors with “the intent to manufacture phencyclidine,” otherwise known as angel dust or PCP.
In recent days, we’ve learned that Nakoula used 14 different aliases — including “P.J. Tobacco” and “Kritbag Difrat” — in a complex check kiting scheme. We’ve learned that Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in federal custody for the affair. According to The Smoking Gun, Nakoula was released from the the United States Penitentiary in Lompoc, California in September, 2010. He spent the following nine months in and out of a halfway house in Long Beach. Unnamed officials tell ABC News he wrote the script for the film, which depicts the prophet Muhammad as a thug and a child molester, while in prison.
The punishment was relatively gentle, even though it wasn’t Nakoula’s first encounter with the law. That’s because Nakoula had decided to become a federal informant.
“I am sorry for what happened. Now I know it was wrong. I decide to cooperate with the government to retrieve some of those mistakes,” Nakoula told Judge Christina Snyder in June of 2010, according to a sentencing transcript obtained by The Smoking Gun.
The man Nakoula agreed to help the feds catch was Eiad Salameh, the ringleader of the check kiting scheme and “a notorious fraudster who has been tracked for more than a decade by state and federal investigators,” the Smoking Gun says. “In his debriefings, Nakoula said he was recruited as a ‘runner’ by Salameh, who pocketed the majority of money generated by the bank swindles.”
Because of the promised help, because of his many ailments (including Hepatitis C and diabetes) and maybe because of a friendly letter from a friend calling Nakoula “a God-fearing man whose first priority is his family,” Bakoula was sentenced to just 21 months in prison (…) in spie of his previous arrests. In August of 1991, he was convicted on two counts of selling watered-down gasoline. And then came the arrest for PCP manufacturing in 1997.
It’s “entirely possible”, WIRED continues, that Nakoula and his associates were arrested for trying to mass-produce both PCP and methamphetamine, according to unconfirmed reports from The Daily Beast.