A Hawthorne man was due in court Tuesday afternoon on federal charges that he intentionally drove his domestic partner and two children with severe autism off a pier into the Port of Los Angeles to collect proceeds on accidental-death insurance policies he had purchased on their lives.
Ali F. Elmezayen, 44, was scheduled to appear in downtown Los Angeles before a U.S. magistrate judge, who will consider a motion by prosecutors to have him held in jail without bond.
Elmezayen was arrested Nov. 7 by special agents with the FBI after being charged with defrauding insurance companies. He made his initial court appearance the next day, when he was ordered held without bond pending Tuesday’s detention hearing.
According to a criminal complaint, Elmezayen purchased several accidental death insurance policies providing more than $6 million in coverage on himself, his domestic partner and his children in 2012 and 2013. He allegedly paid nearly $6,000 a year for these policies—even though he was earning less than $30,000 a year—and he called at least two of the insurance companies to confirm they would not investigate claims made two years after the policies were purchased.
On April 9, 2015—two years and 12 days after he bought the last of his insurance policies—Elmezayen allegedly drove a car with his partner and two youngest children off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles, according to federal prosecutors. He allegedly swam out the open driver’s side window of the car, while his partner, who did not know how to swim, survived when a nearby fisherman threw her a flotation device.
The two children, ages 8 and 13, were unable to escape the car and drowned, authorities said.
Elmezayen then collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from American General Life Insurance and Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance on the accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on the children’s lives, according to the complaint.
The Los Angeles County district attorney declined to bring charges in the deaths because of insufficient evidence. A police mechanic found evidence that the brake pedal didn’t properly work, but couldn’t tell if that was the case before the tragedy or because of salt water corrosion.
While a county prosecutor said the father’s explanation could create reasonable doubt, they suggested police tell federal prosecutors about evidence of insurance and other fraud.
In addition to posing as his domestic partner in communications with the insurance companies without her knowledge, Elmezayen allegedly made several false statements, including stating that the cause of his children’s deaths was accidental and that he had no other insurance policies on his children.
“This case alleges a calculated and cold-hearted scheme to profit off the deaths of two helpless children,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said. “The alleged conduct shocks the conscience, and we will use every tool available to us to ensure that justice is done.”
The criminal complaint specifically charges Elmezayen with mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for posing as his domestic partner in calls to the insurance companies.
During last week’s court hearing, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Nov. 23, and Elmezayen was ordered to appear for an arraignment on Nov. 29. If he were to be convicted of the charges in the complaint, Elmezayen would face up to 20 years in federal prison for each of the fraud counts. The charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.
Brian Melley of the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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