LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. Attorney for Central District of California, Nick Hanna, issued the following news release:
A Hawthorne man was found guilty by a jury today of 14 federal felonies for intentionally driving his family off a wharf and into the water at the Port of Los Angeles in a scheme to collect money on insurance policies he had taken out on their lives.
Ali F. Elmezayen, 45, was found guilty of four counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and five counts of money laundering.
"Dissatisfied with his financial and family situation, Mr. Elmezayen fraudulently purchased millions of dollars in insurance on his common-law wife and disabled young sons, and then drove them off a pier in order to cash in," said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. "These two boys deserved a loving father; instead they got a man who put his greed and self-interest above their lives."
"A jury found that Mr. Elmezayen intentionally put his children in a deadly situation from which they could not escape," said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. "Today's verdict delivers justice and gives a voice to the young victims who deserved to be protected by their father, but instead were murdered so he could profit from their deaths."
According to the evidence presented at his nine-day trial, between July 2012 and March 2013, Elmezayen bought from eight different insurance companies more than $7 million worth of life and accidental death insurance policies on himself and his family. Elmezayen paid premiums in excess of $6,000 per year for these policies - even though he reported income of less than $30,000 per year on his tax returns. Elmezayen began purchasing the insurance policies the same year he exited a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.
After purchasing the policies, Elmezayen repeatedly called the insurance companies - sometimes pretending to be his wife in whose name he had obtained some of the policies - to verify that the policies were active and that they would pay benefits if his wife died in an accident. Elmezayen also called at least two of the insurance companies to confirm they would not investigate claims made two years after the policies were purchased. These telephone calls were recorded and were played for the jury.
On April 9, 2015, 12 days after the 2-year contestability period on the last of his insurance policies expired, Elmezayen drove a car with his wife and two youngest children off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles. The site of the crash was a loading dock and worksite for commercial fishermen.
Elmezayen swam out the open driver's side window of the car. Elmezayen's wife, who did not know how to swim, escaped the vehicle and survived when a nearby fisherman threw her a flotation device. Two of the couple's three sons, who were 8 and 13 and who were both severely autistic, were strapped into the car and drowned. The third son was away at camp at the time and was not in the car at the time his father drove it into the water.
Elmezayen then collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance and American General Life Insurance on the accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on the children's lives. He used part of the insurance proceeds to purchase real estate in Egypt as well as a boat.
Prosecutors argued that Elmezayen was an abusive husband and parent who "hatched a plan" to make all of his financial problems disappear.
"What he did on April 9 wasn't an accident," prosecutors said. "It was a long time coming."
"It's a terrible tragedy that any father would jeopardize the lives of his family for his own financial gain," stated Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Korner of IRS Criminal Investigation. "IRS-CI is proud to flex our financial fraud expertise in bringing some closure in this horrific scheme."
In addition to posing as his wife in communications with the insurance companies without her knowledge, following the crash, Elmezayen repeatedly lied - to law enforcement officers, insurance companies, and in subsequent civil litigation he filed concerning the crash - about the extent of the insurance he had purchased on his family, and specifically about whether he had insured his disabled children's lives. The evidence at trial also showed that he attempted to persuade witnesses to falsely tell law enforcement that he had given the insurance proceeds to charity.
FBI agents arrested Elmezayen in November 2018 on a criminal complaint and he has been in custody ever since.
Tomorrow, United States District Judge John F. Walter will schedule a sentencing hearing, at which time Elmezayen will face a statutory maximum sentence of 212 years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation. The Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Port Police, and the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office provided substantial assistance in this case.
Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander C.K. Wyman of the Major Frauds Section and David T. Ryan of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section are prosecuting this matter.