When the police pulled Nakoula Basseley Nakoula over outside Los Angeles on March 27, 1997, he had $45,000 in hundreds and twenties in a paper lunch bag on the seat beside him.
Fifteen years would pass before Nakoula would become known as the man who helped set the Mideast afire with an anti-Muslim film trailer. On this night, though, he was the subject of a drug investigation, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had been watching him as he drove a U-Haul rental truck from a storage facility in Downey to a Super 7 liquor store. There, he picked up a liquor store employee named Khaled Abraham. They proceeded to Abraham’s house in Lake Elsinore.
At the house, Nakoula and the others unloaded 30 boxes of pseudoephedrine, a prime ingredient of methamphetamine. Another 99 cases were found at the storage facility.
After his arrest, Nakoula insisted he had only been doing the bidding of his employer, Mansour Barsoum, whom he described as the owner of a firm called ABC Trading. The police determined that the storage unit had indeed been rented under the name Barsoum, but the manager identified Nakoula as the person who actually had rented it.
The police were unable to find any trace of Mansour or ABC Trading, though Nakoula was discovered to have receipts from a Santa Monica firm called M&A for the purchase of some $150,000 of pseudoephedrine pills.
Nakoula sought to explain his boss’s absence by saying, “Mansour had left for Egypt.” Nakoula’s lawyer subsequently produced a copy of an Egyptian passport for a man of that name, but the police do not seem to have been convinced.
Nakoula nonetheless only spent just two days in jail, getting off with three years’ probation when he could have gotten hard time.
“Sounds like he’s an informant,” observes a law-enforcement official familiar such matters,
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