* Nakoula spent time in U.S. prison for bank fraud
* Use of aliases or Internet could violate his probation
* Authorities not investigating film over its content
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES, Sept 14 (Reuters) - A California man convicted of bank fraud is under investigation for possible probation violations stemming from the making of an anti-Islam video that triggered violent protests against the United States in the Muslim world, U.S. officials said on Friday.
The man, 55-year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, told his Coptic Christian bishop that he was not involved in the film, but media reports have widely linked his name to the video.
"The U.S. probation office in the central district of California is reviewing the case," said Karen Redmond, spokeswoman for the administrative office of the U.S. Courts in Washington, D.C., reached by phone from Los Angeles.
A source with knowledge of the case confirmed that the probation office was looking specifically into Nakoula's possible involvement in making the film for violations of the terms of his release.
The crudely made 13-minute English-language video, which was filmed in California and circulated on the Internet under several titles including "Innocence of Muslims," portrays the Prophet Mohammad engaged in crude and offensive behavior.
The film sparked a violent protest at the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed on Tuesday. Protests have spread to other countries across the Arab and Muslim world.
For many Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is blasphemous. Caricatures deemed insulting in the past have provoked protests and drawn condemnations from officials, preachers, ordinary Muslims and many Christians in the Middle East.
Adding to the incendiary nature of the film was the fact that it had been promoted by a U.S.-based Egyptian Coptic Christian activist, Morris Sadek, who said his intent was to highlight discrimination against Egypt's Coptic minority. Copts have expressed fear the film could lead to retaliation.
�Nakoula, whose home in Cerritos has been besieged by the news media and who could not be reached for comment, pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2010 and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, to be followed by five years on supervised probation, court documents showed.
Nakoula was accused of fraudulently opening bank and credit card accounts using Social Security numbers that did not match the names on the applications, a criminal complaint showed. He was released in June 2011, and at least some production on the video was done later that summer.
NOT INVESTIGATING CONTENT
U.S. officials said authorities were not investigating the film project itself, and officials have said that even if it was inflammatory or led to violence, simply producing it cannot be considered a crime under U.S. law.
But the written terms of Nakoula's prison release contain behavior stipulations that bar him from accessing the Internet or assuming aliases without the approval of his probation officer.
A senior law enforcement official in Washington indicated the probation investigation relates to whether he broke either or both of these conditions. Violations could result in him being sent back to prison, court records show.
The film itself, posted on the Internet since July, has been attributed to a man whose name was given as Sam Bacile, which at least two people linked to the film have said was likely an alias.
A telephone number said to belong to Bacile and provided to Reuters by Sadek was later traced back to a person who shares the Nakoula residence.
Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law School professor, said that whether Nakoula might be sent back to jail over potential probation violations linked to the film, such as accessing the Internet, was a subjective decision up to an individual judge.
"Federal judges are gods in their own courtrooms, it varies so much in who they are," he said, noting such a move would be based on his conduct not on the content of the film.
A pair of attorneys visited Nakoula's home on Friday in Cerritos.
"I've been asked to consult with Mr. Nakoula regarding matters that I'm not at liberty to discuss," Steve Seiden, one of the attorneys, told reporters. He also asked media to leave.
In addition to the bank fraud conviction, Nakoula also pleaded guilty in 1997 to possession with intent to manufacture methamphetamine and was sentenced to a year in jail, according to Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.
Nakoula told Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles that he was not involved in the film, the bishop told Reuters.
BEFORE YOU GO
09/15/2012 10:05 PM EDT
Egypt PM: Some Cairo Protesters Paid To Protest
Egypt's Prime Minister Hesham Kandil told CNN that some people involved in the recent protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were paid to protest. He also said that some were there on their own accord, though.
For more on his comments, click here.
09/15/2012 8:16 PM EDT
Libya President: 'Foreigners' Involved In Attack
Both Libyans and "foreigners" carried out the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, said Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf.
"We have assumptions and we have some information, and all that information we have now leads to the same direction about the perpetrators, the criminals," he told NBC.
For more on Magariaf's comments, click here.
09/15/2012 7:58 PM EDT
More Details Of Libya Attack Emerge
A local security official walked CNN through the horrific attacks in Libya that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead. Read the report here.
09/15/2012 7:32 PM EDT
Senior Libya Official Tells CNN: No Evidence That Attack Was Pre-Planned
@ JomanaCNN :
One senior official just told me they have no evidence yet to support President's statements that attack was pre-planned. #Libya
09/15/2012 7:24 PM EDT
U.S. Issues Warnings For Sudan, Tunisia
From the AP:
WASHINGTON — The State Department on Saturday ordered the departure of all family members and non-essential U.S. government personnel from posts in Sudan and Tunisia and is issuing travel warnings to American citizens in the two countries due to security concerns over anti-American violence.
"Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the State Department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens," said Victoria Nuland, a department spokeswoman.
To read more, click here.
09/15/2012 7:19 PM EDT
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula
In this image from video provided by CBS2-KCAL9, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind the anti-Muslim movie that has inflamed the Middle East, is escorted by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies from his home, early Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Cerritos, Calif. Nakoula, 55, was interviewed by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff's station but was not arrested or detained, authorities said early Saturday. (AP Photo/CBS2-KCAL9)
09/15/2012 5:10 PM EDT
Image Purportedly Shows Camp Bastion
This image from AP video obtained from the SITE Intel Group posted by al-Emarah Jihadi Studio, an Afghan Taliban media unit who released two clips on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, purports to show smoke rising over Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, after what the Taliban media unit says is an attack at the base. (AP Photo/SITE Intelligence Group)
09/15/2012 5:03 PM EDT
Far-Right Group Trying To Screen Anti-Islam Film
According to an AFP report, a far-right group in Germany wants to screen 'Innocence of Muslims,' the film that sparked protests around the world, in Berlin.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Der Spiegel he would use every legal means at his disposal to stop them.
“Such groups and organizations only want to provoke Germany’s Muslims,” he said, accusing them of recklessly pouring oil on the fire.
Read the full story here.
09/15/2012 4:36 PM EDT
Libyan President Meets U.S. Consulate Guard
President Mohammed el-Megarif, fourth right, meets an unidentified Libyan guard of the U.S. Consulate who was wounded following the deadly attack on September 11, 2012, at Benghazi Medical Center in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo)
09/15/2012 4:30 PM EDT
Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority on Saturday condemned the attacks on U.S. embassies as un-Islamic, according to a report by Reuters.
"It is forbidden to punish the innocent for the wicked crimes of the guilty, or to attack those who have been granted protection of their lives and property, or to expose public buildings to fire or destruction," he said in a speech carried by state news agency SPA.
Read the full report here.