‘Evil and diabolical scheme’: Hawthorne man sentenced to 212 years for killing 2 disabled sons to collect life insurance

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Rescuers responded to a report of a vehicle in the harbor in San Pedro on April 9, 2015. (Credit: KTLA)

Rescuers responded to a report of a vehicle in the harbor in San Pedro on April 9, 2015. (Credit: KTLA)

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A man who intentionally drove his disabled sons off a Port of Los Angeles wharf, drowning them, as part of a scheme to collect life insurance has been sentenced to 212 years in prison, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Ali Elmezayen, 45, of Hawthorne, had been convicted in October 2019 of 14 federal felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

In handing down the maximum sentence, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter cited the defendant’s “evil and diabolical scheme” and the “vicious and callous nature of his crimes,” according to the release.

“He is the ultimate phony and a skillful liar…and is nothing more than a greedy and brutal killer,” Walter said. “The only regret that the defendant has is that he got caught.”

Elmezayen bought more than $3 million in life and accidental death insurance policies for himself and his family from multiple insurers beginning in July 2012, the same year he left a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding, investigators said. The final policy was purchased in March 2013.

Prosecutors noted that, despite reporting an annual income of under $30,000 a year on his taxes, he paid annual premiums of over $6,000.

After obtaining the policies, Elmezayen repeatedly called the insurance companies to verify the plans were active and would pay out benefits in the event of an accidental death, according to recorded audio that was played during the trial

On some of the calls, he posed as his ex-wife, whose name were on some of the policies, prosecutors said.

Elmezayen also asked at least two companies if they would investigate claims made two years after he bought the insurance, according to the release.

Then, on April 9, 2015 – 12 days after the contestability period on the final insurance policy expired – Elmezayen drove his ex-wife and their two youngest children off a commercial fishing dock at the San Pedro port, according to prosecutors.

He made it out of the submerged car by swimming through the open driver’s side window. His ex-wife, who couldn’t swim, escaped and was saved when a nearby fisherman threw her a flotation device.

But two of the couple’s children, 13-year-old Elhassan and 8-year-old Abdelkrim, were unable to get out and drowned. Both were “severely autistic” and had been strapped into the car, according to the release.

In an interview later that day, Elmezayen told KTLA that he tried to park by the water so the family could take in the ocean view as sunset approached but the vehicle “didn’t stop.”

He called the crash a “really bad accident” and said, “I want to go back to my kids but the car (went) really deep.”

The defendant later collected some $260,000 in insurance money from his sons’ policies, part of which he used to buy a boat and real estate, according to prosecutors.

Along with the 212-year sentence, Elmezayen was ordered to pay more than $260,000 in restitution to the insurance companies.

“[Elmezayen] murdered his disabled children and attempted to murder his ex-wife for money,” they wrote in the 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.”

The DOJ also said the defendant repeatedly lied, not just to the insurance companies, but also to law enforcement officers and in subsequent civil litigation he filed over the Port of L.A. crash.

Elmezayen was eventually arrested by FBI agents in November 2018.

In July 2019, he was charged separately by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office with two capital murder counts. At the time, the DA’s office said Elmezayen would be tried after the federal case was completed.

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