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Father charged with murder for driving sons with autism off L.A. pier

Prosecutors said the father purchased accidental death insurance policies on his sons and domestic partner, then drove them off a pier.
Rescuers with the Los Angeles Fire Department pulled two boys from a submerged vehicle on April 9, 2015.
Rescuers with the Los Angeles Fire Department pulled two boys from a submerged vehicle on April 9, 2015.David Gregory / NBC Los Angeles

A father accused of driving his family off a California pier and killing his two severely autistic sons in order to cash in on their exorbitant life insurance policies was charged Wednesday with capital murder.

Ali F. Elmezayen, 44, was charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for allegedly intentionally driving off a wharf at San Pedro's Port of Los Angeles in April 2015, killing his youngest sons Elhassan, 13, and Abdelkrim, 8, while he and his domestic partner managed to escape, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Elmezayen is already in federal custody on fraud charges. He was arrested last year after prosecutors said he had purchased accidental death insurance policies providing more than $6 million in coverage on himself, his domestic partner, Rabab Diab, and his children in 2012 and 2013.

He is accused of paying more than $6,000 a year for the policies, even though he made less than $30,000 annually, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

He called two of the insurance companies to confirm that they wouldn't investigate his claims if they were made two years after the policies were purchased, the statement said. Two years and 12 days after he bought the last policy, he drove his family off the wharf.

Diab did not know how to swim, but was able to survive after fisherman threw her a flotation device. The fisherman told The Associated Press that she was screaming: "My kids, my kids."

The two boys were strapped in child seats, and their bodies were later recovered by rescue divers.

Meanwhile, Elmezayen's window was open, and he swam out of the car to safety.

Elmezayen collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds, according the U.S. attorney's office, which said he posed as his domestic partner sometimes when communicating with insurance companies. He is accused of wiring more than $170,000 of the insurance money to his native Egypt.

He has pleaded not guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. A lawyer for Elmezayen could not be found.

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

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office declined to charge Elmezayen with murder in 2017, but further investigation led to this week's charges, a statement from the office said.

If convicted in the fraud case, Elmezayen could face more than 40 years in prison. If convicted in the murder case, he faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, and prosecutors are considering whether to pursue the federal death penalty.