A father was found guilty Tuesday of driving his wife and two disabled sons off a dock at the Port of Los Angeles in 2015 so that he could collect life insurance money, federal prosecutors said.
A jury convicted 45-year-old Ali F. Elmezayen of Hawthorne on 14 federal felony counts including money laundering, mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
In a separate case, Elmezayen is still facing murder charges in the deaths of his two sons with autism, 13-year-old Elhassan and 8-year-old Abdelkrim, and an attempted murder charge for his wife, who couldn’t swim but managed to survive the crash.
During a nine-day trial, federal prosecutors portrayed Elmezayen as an abusive father and spouse who hatched a callous plot to end his money woes.
Investigators say he took out more than $7 million worth of life and accidental death insurance from eight different companies over the course of eight months.
He began buying the policies in 2012, the same year he left Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. And despite tax returns showing his income at less than $30,000 a year, he paid annual premiums in excess of $6,000, officials said.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said Elmezayen was “(d)issatisfied with his financial and family situation” and drove his loved ones off the pier “to cash in.”
The jury heard recorded audio of Elmezayen repeatedly calling insurance companies to verify the plans were active and would pay out. On some calls the defendant would allegedly impersonate his wife, in whose name some policies were obtained.
At least twice, he asked companies if they would investigate claims made within two years of buying the policy, authorities said.
On April 9, 2015 – 12 days after the two-year contestability period on the last insurance policy expired – Elmezayen plunged the family car off a commercial fishing dock at the San Pedro port.
Elmezayen was able to swim through his open driver’s side window, while his wife was pulled to safety by a nearby fisherman who tossed her a flotation device, officials said.
Elhassan and Abdelkrim, who prosecutors describe as severely autistic, were restrained in the car and drowned.
Authorities say the couple has a third son who was away at camp at the time.
In an interview with KTLA shortly after the crash, Elmezayan described the plunge as “a really bad accident” and said he’d gone to the wharf so his family could take in the view.
“I want to go back to my kids but the car (went) really deep,” he said.
Elmezayen collected more than $260,000 from insurance, using some of the cash to buy real estate in Egypt and a boat, investigators said.
Officials allege he continued to lie about how much insurance he’d purchased, and tried to get a witnesses to tell authorities he gave the money to charity.
Elmezayen has remained in custody since his arrest last November.
On Tuesday, a judge is expected to scheduled a date for his sentencing, when he’ll face up to 212 years in federal prison.