This week marked the start of the federal fraud trial of Ali Elmezayen, a 44-year-old father accused of killing his two sons with severe autism by driving off a California pier into the Pacific Ocean before later collecting on the insurance policies he’d purchased in their names.
Opening arguments in the Hawthorne man’s trial were presented Thursday in a Los Angeles court, according to local reports, which indicate the defendant wept openly in court during the proceedings. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege that Elmezayen had money troubles, and concocted a scheme to drive off the pier at the Port of Los Angeles with his sons and ex-wife his only passengers, according to NBC in Los Angeles.
Jurors learned on Thursday Elmezayen took out accidental death policies on all three, according to ABC 7 Los Angeles, while his defense attorney argued he was loving dad who, while distracted on April 9, 2015, accidentally accelerated into the Pacific.
The two sons, 13-year old Elhassan and 8-year old Abdelkrim, drowned, but his ex-wife, who is expected to testify for the state, managed to escape the vehicle and was rescued by fishermen.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Wyman alleged that Elemezayen purchased accidental death insurance policies in 2012 and 2013, providing more than $6 million in coverage for himself, his ex and their three children. The third child was not in the vehicle.
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Prosecutors further alleged the Egyptian native abused his wife and threatened her life on a number of occasions.
But Elmezayen’s attorney, Christy O’Connor, dismissed his actions as eccentric, calling him a “kook” with hypochondria and severe anxiety — hence, the life insurance policies, according to MyNewsLA.com.
“He is massively neurotic, anxious and worried about everything,” the station quotes O’Connor as saying before admitting that buying multiple policies is something “a normal person would not do.”
Elmezayen was paying $6,000 a year for the policies he had on his family, and, after his sons’ deaths, collected $260,000.
Meanwhile, Elmezayen will also be tried in a separate trial in Superior Court for the murder of his sons. A date for the start of those proceedings has not been set.