A California man was sentenced this week to 212 years in federal prison for intentionally driving his ex-wife and two disabled sons off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles into the ocean – drowning the boys who were trapped in the car – to collect on accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on their lives.
Ali F. Elmezayen, 45, was sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who, in imposing the maximum sentence allowed by law, noted Elmezayen’s “evil and diabolical scheme” as well as the “vicious and callous nature of his crimes.”
“He is the ultimate phony and a skillful liar…and is nothing more than a greedy and brutal killer,” Judge Walter said. “The only regret that the defendant has is that he got caught.”
Judge Walter also ordered Elmezayen to pay $261,751 in restitution to the insurance companies that he defrauded.
During a nine-day trial in October 2019, a federal jury found Elmezayen guilty of four counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and five counts of money laundering.
“Mr. Elmezayen conceived a cold-blooded plan to murder his autistic sons and their mother, then cash in on insurance policies,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “He now has ample time to reflect – from the inside of a federal prison cell – on where his greed and self-interest took him. We continue to grieve for those two helpless boys who deserved better from their father, who will never again walk among us as a free man.”
“Fathers are supposed to protect their children but instead, Elmezayen drove his boys straight to their certain death in exchange for cash,” said Kristi Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The defendant maliciously planned the death of his autistic sons and gave them virtually no chance of survival. The investigation that led to today’s sentencing won’t give them their lives, but affords them justice in death.”
From July 2012 to March 2013, Elmezayen bought from eight different insurance companies more than $3 million 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 ex-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 ex-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 two-year contestability period on the last of his insurance policies expired, Elmezayen drove a car with his ex-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 ex-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 couple’s 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.
“[Elmezayen] murdered his disabled children and attempted to murder his ex-wife for money,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. “After years of physically and emotionally abusing his ex-wife and neglecting the children, [Elmezayen] bought $3.4 million in insurance on their lives, waited for two years so the insurance companies would not contest his claims, and then drove them into the ocean, leaving them to drown. That was [Elmezayen’s] fraudulent scheme. It was also premeditated murder.”
In addition to posing as his ex-wife in communications with the insurance companies without her knowledge, following the crash, Elmezayen repeatedly lied to law enforcement officers and insurance companies. He also lied 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. He also attempted to persuade witnesses to lie to law enforcement and say he had given the insurance proceeds to charity.
FBI agents arrested Elmezayen in November 2018 and he has been in federal custody ever since.
“Today Ali Elmezayen was held accountable for his actions, which directly led to the tragic death of his two sons. It is unthinkable 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 work alongside our law enforcement partners to help bring some closure to this horrifying scheme.”
The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this case. The Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Port Police, and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office provided substantial assistance in this case.