LOS ANGELES (CN) --- A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a man to 212 years in prison for driving his ex-wife and two sons with autism off a pier at the Port of Los Angeles as part of a scheme to collect on their insurance policies.
Ali F. Elmezayen, 45, bought $3 million worth of life and accidental death insurance policies covering himself and his family between July 2012 and March 2013.
The policies --- purchased from eight different companies --- came with annual premiums costing upwards of $6,000, according to federal prosecutors.
Elmezayen purchased the policies the same year he exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy and while he was reporting annual income of less than $30,000.
Once the policies were official, Elmezayen called insurance companies repeatedly to verify that claims made two years after purchase wouldn’t be investigated and that benefits would be paid if his ex-wife died in an accident.
The calls were recorded and played for a jury during an October 2019 federal trial.
On April 9, 2015, just over a week after the two-year contestability period expired on a policy, Elmezayen drove a car containing his ex-wife and two children off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles.
Elmezayen swam to safety while his ex-wife, who didn’t know how to swim, was rescued by a nearby fisherman.
The two children, aged 8 and 13 and who lived with autism, had been strapped into the backseat and drowned.
Insurance companies Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance and American General Life Insurance paid out more than $260,000 in benefits, which Elmezayen then used to purchase a boat and real estate in Egypt, according to prosecutors.
“Defendant murdered his disabled children and attempted to murder his ex-wife for money,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “After years of physically and emotionally abusing his ex-wife and neglecting the children, defendant 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 defendant's fraudulent scheme. It was also premeditated murder.”
In subsequent civil litigation related to the crash and during law enforcement’s investigation, Elmezayen repeatedly lied and attempted to persuade witnesses to lie by having them tell investigators he gave insurance proceeds to charity.
After the nine-day trial, the federal jury found Elmezayen guilty of four counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and five counts of money laundering.
At a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter handed down a 212-year sentence, the statutory maximum.
Walter characterized Elmezayen’s scheme as “evil and diabolical” and that the defendant showed callousness and viciousness toward his victims.
“He is the ultimate phony and a skillful liar, and is nothing more than a greedy and brutal killer,” Walter said in the hearing. “The only regret that the defendant has is that he got caught.”
Walter also ordered Elmezayen to pay nearly $262,000 in restitution to insurance companies defrauded in the scheme.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement Thursday her office grieves for the victims.
“Mr. Elmezayen conceived a cold-blooded plan to murder his autistic sons and their mother, then cash in on insurance policies,” Wilkison said. “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.”
Elmezayen has been in federal custody since FBI agents arrested him in November 2018.
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