(NEW YORK) — The controversial Innocence of Muslims was written, produced and directed by a convicted drug manufacturer and scam artist, who has told authorities he actually wrote the script in federal prison and began production two months after his June 2011 release from custody.
Authorities say Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, of Cerritos, Calif., admitted his role in the film, after seeking help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he has received since the release of the film. Excerpts from the film led to outrage and violence in the Arab world.
Authorities told ABC News that Nakoula told them he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie which, he reportedly said, cost between $50,000 and $60,000 and was shot in a little over 12 days.
Authorities say he claimed the money for the movie came from his wife’s family in Egypt.
Using the false name Sam Basile, Nakoula had told reporters earlier this week that he was an “Israeli Jew,” that the film had cost about $5,000,000, and that the money had come from wealthy Jewish friends.
Now he is “scared to death,” authorities told ABC News, and fearful that harm could come to his wife and other family members. But most of the threats have been directed at him, authorities said.
According to California law enforcement officials the other members of the team that produced the movie are also fearful that harm could come to them. Authorities were seeking to talk to each of them.
Records obtained by ABC News show Nakoula was convicted of intent to manufacture methamphetamine in the 1990s, and also served time in federal prison on bank fraud charges, where he told authorities he wrote the script.
Sentenced to 21 months in prison and five years on probation, Nakoula was moved from the federal correctional complex in Lompoc, Calif. to a halfway house in 2010, according to the website The Smoking Gun. He was released from federal custody in June 2011 and production on the film began just two months later at a soundstage in Southern California.
Actors in the film say that they were told the film was called “Desert Warrior,” and say that the script contained no references to Mohammed. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia told ABC News, “I never heard Mohammed, I never said Mohammed.” Specific references to Mohammed and Islam were apparently added via overdubbing.
“I just want the world to know that I did not know,” said Garcia.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ellie Kaufman, Jason Hanna and Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Jeremy Diamond, CNN