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Prosecutions

Man Guilty of Drowning Two Autistic Sons for Insurance Money

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LOS ANGELES – A man was found guilty by a jury on October 29 of 14 federal felonies for intentionally driving his family off a wharf and into the water at the Port of Los Angeles in a scheme to collect money on insurance policies he had taken out on their lives.

Ali F. Elmezayen, 45, was found guilty of four counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and five counts of money laundering.

“Dissatisfied with his financial and family situation, Mr. Elmezayen fraudulently purchased millions of dollars in insurance on his common-law wife and disabled young sons, and then drove them off a pier in order to cash in,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “These two boys deserved a loving father; instead they got a man who put his greed and self-interest above their lives.”

“A jury found that Mr. Elmezayen intentionally put his children in a deadly situation from which they could not escape,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Today’s verdict delivers justice and gives a voice to the young victims who deserved to be protected by their father, but instead were murdered so he could profit from their deaths.”

According to the evidence presented at his nine-day trial, between July 2012 and March 2013, Elmezayen bought from eight different insurance companies more than $7 million worth of life and accidental death insurance policies on himself and his family.

Elmezayen paid premiums in excess of $6,000 per year for these policies – even though he reported income of less than $30,000 per year on his tax returns. Elmezayen began purchasing the insurance policies the same year he exited a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.

After purchasing the policies, Elmezayen repeatedly called the insurance companies – sometimes pretending to be his wife in whose name he had obtained some of the policies – to verify that the policies were active and that they would pay benefits if his wife died in an accident.

Elmezayen also called at least two of the insurance companies to confirm they would not investigate claims made two years after the policies were purchased. These telephone calls were recorded and were played for the jury.

On April 9, 2015, 12 days after the 2-year contestability period on the last of his insurance policies expired, Elmezayen drove a car with his wife and two youngest children off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles. The site of the crash was a loading dock and worksite for commercial fishermen.

Elmezayen swam out the open driver’s side window of the car. Elmezayen’s wife, who did not know how to swim, escaped the vehicle and survived when a nearby fisherman threw her a flotation device. Two of the couple’s three sons, who were 8 and 13 and who were both severely autistic, were strapped into the car and drowned. The third son was away at camp at the time and was not in the car at the time his father drove it into the water.

Elmezayen then collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance and American General Life Insurance on the accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on the children’s lives. He used part of the insurance proceeds to purchase real estate in Egypt as well as a boat.

Prosecutors argued that Elmezayen was an abusive husband and parent who “hatched a plan” to make all of his financial problems disappear.

“What he did on April 9 wasn’t an accident,” prosecutors said. “It was a long time coming.”

“It’s a terrible tragedy that any father would jeopardize the lives of his family for his own financial gain,” stated Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Korner of IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS-CI is proud to flex our financial fraud expertise in bringing some closure in this horrific scheme.”

In addition to posing as his wife in communications with the insurance companies without her knowledge, following the crash, Elmezayen repeatedly lied – to law enforcement officers, insurance companies, and in subsequent civil litigation he filed concerning the crash – about the extent of the insurance he had purchased on his family, and specifically about whether he had insured his disabled children’s lives. The evidence at trial also showed that he attempted to persuade witnesses to falsely tell law enforcement that he had given the insurance proceeds to charity.

FBI agents arrested Elmezayen in November 2018 on a criminal complaint and he has been in custody ever since.

On November 3rd, United States District Judge John F. Walter will schedule a sentencing hearing, at which time Elmezayen will face a statutory maximum sentence of 212 years in federal prison.

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Prosecutions

Feds Charge Local Man in $410M Medical Fraud Scheme

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GEORGIA — A California man who operated a durable medical equipment (DME) company has been charged for his alleged participation in a massive healthcare fraud scheme. The defendant is the 22nd charged in the Southern District of Georgia as part of an investigation that uncovered more than $410 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, the largest fraud case in the history of the Southern District of Georgia.

Scott M. Hirsch, the operator of JI Medical, Inc., a company formerly based on the Miracle Mile in the City of Los Angeles, is accused of conspiring to pay kickbacks in exchange for obtaining orders for DME that JI Medical, Inc. would then bill to Medicare. As part of this scheme, the physicians receiving the kickbacks from JI Medical, Inc. knowingly signed false medical records describing “consultations” of Medicare patients.

Research shows that JI Medical operated under the name RAMAT Medical at 5812 West Pico Blvd.

“Telemedicine is an important tool for legitimate providers – but paying kickbacks is not part of telemedicine and will not be tolerated under any circumstances,” said U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine. “While many of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners may be working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, this office continues to work day and night to bring bad actors to justice.” 

The healthcare fraud scheme charged is the largest in the history of the Southern District of Georgia. Previous charges in this string of cases include eight physicians, two nurse practitioners, two operators of telemedicine companies, and two brokers of patient data. The Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries whose identities were used as part of the scheme are located throughout the Southern District of Georgia, including the Augusta, Brunswick, Dublin, Savannah, Statesboro, and Waycross Divisions, as well as elsewhere in the United States. 

The $410 million fraud scheme charged in the Southern District of Georgia is part of nationwide operations by the Department of Justice that thus far has halted a multi-billion dollar fraud network involving fraudulent claims for genetic testing, orthotic braces, pain creams, and other items.

“The growing number of medical providers and equipment providers alleged to have been involved in this ongoing scheme is disheartening,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI and our federal partners will continue to root out such deceitful practices and protect taxpayers and the citizens who deserve the benefits from programs like Medicare, even as telemedicine becomes more common.” 

“This investigation is a stellar example of inter-agency cooperation and working together to bring those who defraud the health care system to justice,” said FBI Birmingham Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. “The public can be assured that the FBI and our partners will continue to seek to identify and pursue investigations against such egregious offenders.” 

“In these trying times, it’s more important than ever that we safeguard the Medicare trust fund,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta. “HHS/OIG, along with our partners, will vigorously pursue any provider who puts their own financial gain above that of their patients.” 

“Cases of this magnitude can only be tackled using a strategy that recognizes that the most effective way to fight these large criminal networks is by combining the strengths, resources, and expertise of our federal agencies,” said Resident Agent in Charge Glen M. Kessler of the U.S. Secret Service. “Our nation’s healthcare system cannot tolerate kickbacks to physicians and pharmacies while criminals line their pockets with taxpayer funded healthcare dollars.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service aggressively conducts investigations of those who fraudulently use the U.S. Mail to facilitate complex fraud schemes,” said Inspector in Charge Joseph W. Cronin of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division.  “We will continue to support and work with our federal law enforcement partners to stop those who are engaged in these types of fraudulent activities and defend the U.S. Mail from criminal misuse.”

“The defendant in this case used the U.S. Mail to facilitate his elaborate criminal scheme. Postal Inspectors partnered with other agencies to quickly identify the scheme and worked aggressively with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to dismantle this criminal enterprise. Through cases like these, the Postal Inspection Service upholds its longstanding mission of protecting the public and preventing criminal misuse of the U.S. Mail,” said Antonio J. Gomez, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Miami Division.

Indictments or criminal informations contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This investigation is ongoing. As telemedicine becomes an increasing part of our healthcare system, vigilance in ensuring that fraud and kickbacks do not usurp the legitimate practice of medicine by electronic means is more important than ever. If you are aware of any fraud or kickbacks relating to telemedicine, including COVID-19 fraud, please call the FBI hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI. 

This particular prosecution resulted from a joint investigation of multiple agencies and offices.  U.S. Attorney Christine acclaimed the hard work of the investigatory team, led by FBI – Savannah, FBI – Birmingham, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the United States Secret Service, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Thomas Clarkson and Jonathan A. Porter are prosecuting these cases on behalf of the United States.

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Prosecutions

Century City Mall Murder Suspect Arrested in Baltimore

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department’s Operations West Bureau (OWB) Homicide investigators have announced the arrest of a suspect in a murder that took place at the Century City Mall. 

On January 20, 2020, West Los Angeles Division officers responded to a call of a shooting in progress at the Century City Mall. Upon their arrival, officers found a victim down and unresponsive.

Brandon Hinton

The investigation revealed that a fight involving the suspect had occurred outside of a nearby restaurant.  The fight involving the suspect stemmed from another dispute inside of the same restaurant.  During the fight, the suspect armed himself and shot the victim to death.  Investigators from OWB Homicide identified Brandon Hinton as the suspect.  It was determined that Brandon Hinton had fled the area and a murder warrant was issued.

On March 16, 2020, Federal Bureau of Investigations Fugitive Task Force agents in Baltimore, Maryland located and arrested Hinton.

On Friday, April 10, 2020, LAPD-FBI Fugitive Task Force agents extradited 26-year-old Brandon Hinton to Los Angeles to face murder charges.  Hinton was booked on a four-million-dollar murder warrant and will be arraigned this week.

Anyone with information, including possible additional victims, are urged to call Los Angeles Police Department’s Operations West Bureau homicide investigators at (213) 382-9470. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247).  

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or go directly to www.lacrimestoppers.org.  Tipsters may also visit www.lapdonline.org and click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu to submit an online tip.  Lastly, tipsters may also download the “P3 Tips” mobile application and select the LA Regional Crime Stoppers as their local program.

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Prosecutions

Weinstein Gets New Sex Assault Charge for Bev Hills Hotel Incident

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Man in Handcuffs

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced today that film producer Harvey Weinstein was charged with an additional sexual assault count stemming from an incident that allegedly occurred at a Beverly Hills hotel in May 2010.

Case BA483663 was amended to add one felony count of sexual battery by restraint. Weinstein (dob 3/19/52) was charged in January with one felony count each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint.

“We are continuing to build and strengthen our case,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “As we gather corroborating evidence, we have reached out to other possible sexual assault victims. If we find new evidence of a previously unreported crime, as we did here, we will investigate and determine whether additional criminal charges should be filed.”

The new charge alleges that Weinstein sexually assaulted a woman at a Beverly Hills hotel on May 11, 2010. The victim was first interviewed by law enforcement in October 2019 as a possible corroborating witness in the case. Last month, she provided detectives with information confirming that the assault took place within the 10-year-statute of limitation.

The original criminal complaint charged Weinstein with sexually assaulting two women during separate incidents in 2013.

If convicted as charged in the amended complaint, the defendant faces up to 29 years in state prison.

Prosecutors have initiated a request for the temporary custody of Weinstein from New Yorkthe first of several steps in the extradition process.

At this time, it is unknown when Weinstein will be transferred to Los Angeles County. Upon his arrival, he will be arraigned on the amended complaint. Once a court date is set, the public will be notified.

Prosecutors also announced today that two cases involving Weinstein were declined for prosecution because the victims did not want to testify against the defendant in this case.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson of the Sex Crimes Division is prosecuting the case.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments and the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.

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