LOS ANGELES – A Hawthorne man is due in court this afternoon after being arrested last week on federal charges that allege he intentionally drove his domestic partner and two severely autistic children off a pier into the ocean to collect proceeds on accidental death insurance policies he had purchased on their lives.
Ali F. Elmezayen, 44, is scheduled to appear before a United States Magistrate Judge, who will consider a motion by prosecutors to have him held in jail without bond.
Elmezayen was arrested on November 7 by special agents with the FBI after being charged with defrauding insurance companies. Elmezayen made his initial appearance on November 8, when he was ordered held without bond pending this afternoon'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. Elmezayen 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 drove a car with his partner and two youngest children off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles. Elmezayen swam out the open driver's side window of the car. 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.
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. 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,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “The alleged conduct shocks the conscience, and we will use every tool available to us to ensure that justice is done.”
“The defendant is accused of orchestrating a scheme to defraud insurance companies by taking the lives of his vulnerable young sons,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “The defendant faces serious consequences as we seek justice on their behalf.”
“IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to flex our financial fraud expertise in bringing this alleged killer to justice,” stated R. Damon Rowe of IRS Criminal Investigation's Los Angeles Field Office. “Would-be fraudsters should be warned that it is very difficult to profit from death and steal from life insurance companies with impunity.”
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.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
During last week's court hearing, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for November 23, and Elmezayen was ordered to appear for an arraignment on November 29.
If he were to be convicted of the charges in the complaint, Elmezayen would face a statutory maximum sentence of 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.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS Criminal Investigation. The federal investigators received substantial assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Port Police and the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alex Wyman and David Ryan.
Assistant United States Attorney Michael Sew Hoy of the Asset Forfeiture Section obtained a seizure warrant that led to the seizure Thursday of approximately $80,000 from an Elmezayen bank account.