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A Hawthorne man was arrested last week on federal charges that allege he intentionally drove his domestic partner and two severely autistic children off a pier into the ocean to collect proceeds on accidental death insurance policies he had purchased on their lives.

44 year old Ali F. Elmezayen was arrested on November 7 by special agents with the FBI after being charged with defrauding insurance companies. Elmezayen made his initial appearance on November 8, when he was ordered held without bond pending this afternoon’s detention hearing.

According to a criminal complaint, Elmezayen purchased several accidental death insurance policies providing more than $6 million in coverage on himself, his domestic partner and his children in 2012 and 2013. Elmezayen allegedly paid nearly $6,000 a year for these policies – even though he was earning less than $30,000 a year – and he called at least two of the insurance companies to confirm they would not investigate claims made two years after the policies were purchased.

On April 9, 2015 – two years and 12 days after he bought the last of his insurance policies – Elmezayen drove a car with his partner and two youngest children off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles. Elmezayen swam out the open driver’s side window of the car. His partner, who did not know how to swim, survived when a nearby fisherman threw her a flotation device. The two children, ages 8 and 13, were unable to escape the car and drowned.

Witnesses told police they heard the tires of the vehicle screech as it accelerated toward the water. They also said Elmezayen swam quickly to one of the ladders while his partner came up screaming “My kids, my kids.”

At the time, Los Angeles police said the focus of the investigation had shifted from “homicide/suicide” to “accident.” But it appears detectives later presented a case to prosecutors. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Elzemayen in December 2017 due to lack of sufficient evidence, said spokesman Greg Risling.

Elmezayen made numerous claims as to why he drove off the wharf, including the parking spaces were too close to the edge, the car’s brake system was not working and an evil presence took over him and he wasn’t himself. He also lied to police and said he did not have any life insurance policies on his children, prosecutors said.

Elmezayen then collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from American General Life Insurance and Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance on the accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on the children’s lives, according to the complaint. In addition to posing as his domestic partner in communications with the insurance companies without her knowledge, Elmezayen allegedly made several false statements, including stating that the cause of his children’s deaths was accidental and that he had no other insurance policies on his children.

Elmezayen also filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May 2016 against multiple defendants, including the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, but the case was ruled in favor of the defendants that October, the new federal criminal complaint says.

“This case alleges a calculated and cold-hearted scheme to profit off the deaths of two helpless children,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “The alleged conduct shocks the conscience, and we will use every tool available to us to ensure that justice is done.”

“The defendant is accused of orchestrating a scheme to defraud insurance companies by taking the lives of his vulnerable young sons,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The defendant faces serious consequences as we seek justice on their behalf.”

The criminal complaint specifically charges Elmezayen with mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for posing as his domestic partner in calls to the insurance companies.

During last week’s court hearing, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for November 23, and Elmezayen was ordered to appear for an arraignment on November 29.

If he were to be convicted of the charges in the complaint, Elmezayen would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each of the fraud counts. The charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS Criminal Investigation. The federal investigators received substantial assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Port Police and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.