A man is accused of killing his two sons with severe autism by driving off a California pier into the Pacific ocean so that he could collect up to $6 million in insurance polices he’d taken out on them, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.
On Nov. 7, following a nearly three-year investigation, FBI special agents arrested Ali Elmezayen, 44, of Hawthorne, on federal charges including mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Prosecutors allege Elmezayen posed as his domestic partner when calling insurance companies in an attempt to defraud the companies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California says in a news release.
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On April 9, 2015, after purchasing several accidental death insurance policies worth more than $6 million on himself, his domestic partner and his children, Elmezayen allegedly sped off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles, plunging his 1998 Honda Civic and its occupants into the waters below, the release states.
“Witnesses heard the tires of the car screech loudly and saw the car accelerate before it flew off the edge of the wharf, crashed into the water and immediately sunk,” FBI agent Matthew Parker wrote in an affidavit last week, according to reporting by the Associated Press and U.S. News and World News Report.
Divers searching the waters off San Pedro, California, after a car plunged off a pier with two children strapped inside
Steve McCrank/The Orange County Register/AP
Swimming out of the open driver’s side window, Elmezayen quickly surfaced, the U.S. Attorney’s release states. He paddled to the safety of a nearby ladder on the side of the pier, CBS News reports.
Unable to swim, his domestic partner, Rabib Diab, did her best to stay afloat as she frantically sought help for her children, screaming, “My kids, my kids!” the AP reports.
Diab was pulled out of the water by a nearby fisherman who threw her a flotation device, according to the release.
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But the two boys, Abdelkarim, 8, and Elhassan, 13, were unable to escape and drowned, the release states. According to the AP and CBS, the children were strapped into child seats.
The pair’s third son was away at camp, the AP reports.
Elmezayen told investigators he may have accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake, the AP reports. He also cited medication he had taken for a blood condition two days earlier, Newsweek reports.
But federal prosecutors allege he spent several years preparing to set his deadly plan in motion.
“This case alleges a calculated and cold-hearted scheme to profit off the deaths of two helpless children,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna says in the release.
After the children died, Elmezayen collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from two insurance companies on the accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on the children’s lives in 2012 and 2013, the release states.
At a detention hearing Tuesday, a U.S. Magistrate judge ordered him held without bail, ruling that he is a flight risk and a danger to Diab and their other son, the AP reports.
He has not yet entered a plea and is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 29.
His public defender could not immediately be reached for comment.