Family members of the California man who wrote and produced the controversial anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" fled their home early Monday morning to join the filmmaker in hiding.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has not returned to his Cerritos, California home since being interviewed late Friday night by federal probation officers about his role in the creation of the film, excerpts of which have ignited violent anti-American protests across the Muslim world.
Shortly before 4 a.m. Monday, officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department escorted members of Nakoula's family, who had their faces covered, out of the house and into police vehicles so they could rejoin Nakoula at an undisclosed location.
"They decided they would be safer where they could move about and live a normal life," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department. "All we did was pick them up and reunite them with Mr. Nakoula."
Whitmore said the family's current whereabouts are unknown to him, and it was his understanding that they won't ever return to their Cerritos house, though that decision was "entirely up to the family."
"What we do know and what they told me is that for the time now and for the immediate future, for the weeks and months to come, they will not be returning to this address," Whitmore said.
Nakoula, 55, admitted his role in the film last week and sought help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he had received since the film's release, saying he was "scared to death" about the safety of himself and his family, authorities told ABC News.
Nakoula had originally used the pseudonym Sam Bacile, telling reporters he was an "Israeli Jew" and that the film had cost about $5,000,000, which came from wealthy Jewish friends.
But Nakoula, who is actually an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian, later told authorities that he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie. He reportedly said the film 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.
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, California 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.
He met late Friday night with federal probation officers about whether his involvement in the film violated the terms of his probation, which barred him from accessing the Internet without prior approval.
The inflammatory film has been blamed for violent protests across the Middle East, including in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans died, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, when militants attacked U.S. diplomatic facilities there on Sept. 11.Also Read