LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Hawthorne man was sentenced Thursday to 212 years in federal prison for intentionally driving his ex-wife and his two disabled sons off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles so he could collect on the accidental death policies he had taken out on their lives.
Ali F. Elmezayen, 45, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, who called the scheme “evil and diabolical.” Elmezayen was also ordered to pay $261,751 in restitution to the insurance companies he defrauded.
“He is the ultimate phony and a skillful liar…and is nothing more than a greedy and brutal killer,” the judge was quoted as saying in a Department of Justice news release. “The only regret that the defendant has is that he got caught.”
Elmezayen was found guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering at the end of a nine-day trial in October of 2019.
The crash happened in April of 2015 at Berth 73 at the Port of Los Angeles. Elmezayan told police immediately after the crash he had accidentally hit the gas instead of braking. Elmezayen’s ex-wife, who did not know how to swim, was able to escape the car and survived thanks to a nearby fisherman who threw her a flotation device.
“Fathers are supposed to protect their children but instead, Elmezayen drove his boys straight to their certain death in exchange for cash,” Kristi Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said in a statement. “The defendant maliciously planned the death of his autistic sons and gave them virtually no chance of survival.”
Prosecutors say Elmezayen bought $3.4 million in life and accidental death insurance policies on himself and his family from eight different insurance companies between July 2012 and March 2013. Even though Elmezayen reported income of less than $30,000 a year on his tax returns, prosecutors say he paid more than $6,000 a year in premiums for these policies.
After purchasing the policies, Elmezyen repeatedly called the insurance companies, sometimes posing as his ex-wife, to verify the policies were active and that they would pay benefits if she died in an accident, according to prosecutors. Elmezayen was also found to have called at least two of the insurance companies to confirm they would not investigate claims made two years after the policies were purchased – phone calls that were recorded and played for the jury.
The crash occurred just 12 days after the two-year contestability period on the last of his insurance policies expired, prosecutors said. Elmezayen went on to collect more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance and American General Life Insurance. According to prosecutors, Elmezayen used part of those insurance payouts to buy real estate in Egypt and a boat.
Elmezayen, a native of Egypt with no legal status in the United States, was arrested in November of 2018 – more than three years after the crash – and has been in federal custody since.
Prosecutors say Elmezayen repeatedly lied to law enforcement officers, insurance companies and in subsequent civil litigation he filed concerning the crash. He also tried to convince witnesses to lie to law enforcement officers about the crash, and say he gave the insurance proceeds to charity, according to the Department of Justice.