The details of the case are chilling. A California man killed two of his children for the insurance proceeds, federal prosecutors allege. The boys, ages 8 and 13 and both autistic, were strapped into their car seats when their father drove his car off a wharf into the ocean at the Port of Los Angeles on April 9, 2015. The father swam out the open driver’s-side window, while the children were unable to escape.
It is chilling that he nearly succeeded in his alleged scheme. And — perhaps most chilling — other children are at risk because of the loose standards and lax practices that make it so easy to insure a young life.
Ali F. Elmezayen, 44, was ordered held without bond this month after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central California charged him with mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with what it called “a calculated and coldhearted scheme” to profit from the deaths of his two sons. According to a criminal complaint, he collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds on accidental-death-insurance policies he had taken out on the children.
That Elmezayen faces federal charges is noteworthy. The deaths were initially treated by local authorities as an apparent accident, and authorities said Elmezayen told police that he had no insurance policies on his children. But when Elmezayen and the children’s mother (not implicated in the deaths) filed a wrongful-death civil suit (later dismissed) against the city of Los Angeles and other defendants, authorities discovered the insurance policies and other questionable actions by the father.
Local prosecutors still declined to bring charges, citing insufficient evidence and explaining that months of the car sitting in a police impound lot made it difficult to determine whether the brakes were working at the time of the plunge.
If not for the father’s temerity in trying to cash in even more on the children’s deaths, perhaps no one would have raised questions. The insurance companies seem not to have been curious, ignoring potential red flags such as a recent bankruptcy and low income. Also, as the complaint detailed, Elmezayen had pressed the insurance companies about the practice in which claims made less than two years after a policy is purchased are investigated. The boys drowned two years and 12 days after the last of the insurance policies was purchased.
The deaths of these two helpless children should serve as a wake-up call to California and other states that have no safeguards to protect vulnerable young lives from those who would profit off them.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST