A Hawthorne man is accused of fraud after collecting the life insurance policies of his two sons who died when he drove off a dock at the Port of Los Angeles in 2015, officials said.
Ali Elmezayen, 44, is believed to have intentionally driven off a dock in San Pedro on April 9, 2015, two years after he bought the last of his insurance policies, according to the United States Attorney Central District of California.
His two sons, who were 8 and 13 and had severe autism, died. His domestic partner and the children's mother, Rabab Diab, was rescued after a nearby fisherman threw her a floatation device. Elmezayen also swam out of the driver’s side window of the car.
He had allegedly told the Los Angeles Police Department that he did not have life insurance policies on his sons, but according to a criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday, Elmezayen purchased several accidental death insurance policies for himself, Diab and their three children between 2012 and 2013, providing more than $6 million in coverage. Elmezayen allegedly paid nearly $6,000 a year for the policies 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.
Elmezayen allegedly collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from American General Life Insurance and Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance after what was believed to be the accidental deaths, the criminal complaint alleges.
The defendant is believed to have posed as Diab while communicating with the insurance companies without her knowledge. He allegedly made false statements, including that the cause of death was an accident and that he had no other insurance policies on his children.
Elmezayen was arrested Nov. 7 by the FBI. He is charged with mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for allegedly posing as Diab in calls to the insurance companies.
He has not been charged directly with causing the deaths, however.
He is being held without bail until a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
“This case alleges a calculated and cold-hearted scheme to profit off the deaths of two helpless children,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement. “The alleged conduct shocks the conscience, and we will use every tool available to us to ensure that justice is done.”
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 23.
Elmezayen faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each fraud count and mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft charge.
Authorities previously identified the defendant as Ali Elmezayan. In an interview with KTLA after the incident, he described Diab as his wife.
In the interview one day after the crash, Elmezayen said he stopped the car at Berth 73 so he, his wife, and two sons could take in the view.
"I try to park next to the ocean," Elmezayen said. But he said the car "didn't stop." "I don't know how this happened," he said.
According to the complaint, Elmezayen told authorities that he may have passed out from medication he took days earlier for a condition, or may have accidentally pressed the accelerator.
"I don't know how I stayed alive," he said at the time.
Elmezayen and Diab filed a lawsuit against several defendants alleging that they were negligent for not placing substantial barriers at the dock where the crash occurred. During that time Elmezayen denied knowledge of the life insurance policies and claims, the complaint alleges.