A California father-of-three was sentenced on Thursday to 212 years in federal prison for intentionally driving his ex-wife and two autistic sons off of a wharf, and drowning the children to collect on accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on them.
In imposing the maximum sentence on 45-year-old Ali Elmezayen, US District Judge John Walter called out the defendant’s ‘evil and diabolical scheme’ and described his actions as ‘vicious and callous.’
‘He is the ultimate phony and a skillful liar…and is nothing more than a greedy and brutal killer,’ Judge Walter said. ‘The only regret that the defendant has is that he got caught.’
Ali Elmezayen, 45, was sentenced on Thursday to 212 years in federal prison for intentionally driving his ex-wife and two autistic sons off of a wharf, and drowning the children as part of a life insurance scheme (pictured in a courtroom sketch in 2019)
On April 9, 2015, Elmezayen drove his car carrying his family into the water, killing sons Elhassan, 13, and 8-year-old Abdelkarim, who were, severely autistic
Elmezayen swam out the open driver’s side window of the car within 30 seconds. He was treated by paramedics at the scene
Elmezayen, an Egyptian national, also was ordered to pay $261,751 in restitution to the insurance companies that he defrauded.
During a nine-day trial in October 2019, a federal jury found the divorced dad from Hawthorne guilty of four counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and five counts of money laundering.
Federal prosecutors lacked jurisdiction to file federal murder charges against Elmezayen, but he still faces state capital murder counts. That case is still pending.
‘Mr. Elmezayen conceived a cold-blooded plan to murder his autistic sons and their mother, then cash in on insurance policies,’ said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. ‘He now has ample time to reflect – from the inside of a federal prison cell – on where his greed and self-interest took him.
‘We continue to grieve for those two helpless boys who deserved better from their father, who will never again walk among us as a free man.’
The bodies of Elmezayen’s sons were pulled from the car by rescue divers (pictured above)
From July 2012 to March 2013, Elmezayen bought from eight different insurance companies more than $3million of life and accidental death insurance policies on himself and his family.
Elmezayen paid premiums in excess of $6,000 per year for these policies – even though he reported income of less than $30,000 per year on his tax returns. Elmezayen began purchasing the insurance policies the same year he exited a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.
After taking out the policies, Elmezayen repeatedly called the insurance companies – sometimes pretending to be his ex-wife – to make sure that the policies were active and that they would pay benefits if his former spouse died in an accident.
Elmezayen also called at least two of the insurance companies to confirm they would not investigate claims made two years after the policies were purchased. These telephone calls were recorded and were played for the jury.
On April 9, 2015, Elmezayen drove a car with his ex-wife, Rehab Diab, and his two severely autistic sons, 13-year-old Elhassan and 8-year-old Abdelkarim, off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles. The site of the crash was a loading dock and worksite for commercial fishermen.
The man’s ex-wife, Rehab Diab (right), could not swim but was pulled from the water by a fisherman
Elmezayen swam out the open driver’s side window of the car within 30 seconds. His ex-wife, who did not know how to swim, escaped the vehicle and survived when a nearby fisherman threw her a flotation device.
The couple’s special-needs son were strapped into the car and drowned. A third son was away at camp at the time and was not in the car at the time his father drove it into the water.
‘Fathers are supposed to protect their children but instead, Elmezayen drove his boys straight to their certain death in exchange for cash,’ said Kristi Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. ‘The defendant maliciously planned the death of his autistic sons and gave them virtually no chance of survival.’
Elmezayen then collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance and American General Life Insurance on the accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on the children’s lives. He used part of the insurance proceeds to purchase real estate in Egypt and a boat.
During the trial, prosecutors told jurors that Elmezayen beat his wife and had called her parents in Egypt threatening to send her home in a coffin.
He also filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, blaming his children’s deaths on the city in a bid to collect even more money, but lost, reported ABC7.
FBI agents arrested Elmezayen in November 2018 and he has been in federal custody ever since.
His surviving son, 20-year-old Elhussein Diab, spoke at a sentencing hearing, telling the court that his father had treated his brothers’ graves ‘as a bank account.’