Monday, 27 May 2019

The deaths of two children underscore the need to rein in juvenile life-insurance policies – The Washington Post

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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 cold-hearted 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. He is set to be arraigned Thursday; his attorney did not respond to our call.

That Mr. Elmezayen faces federal charges is noteworthy. The deaths were initially treated by local authorities as an apparent accident, and authorities said Mr. Elmezayen told police he had no insurance policies on his children. But when Mr. 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 if 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, Mr. 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 boys — like that six years ago of 15-month-old Prince McLeod Rams, about which we have previously written — underscore the folly of letting insurance companies set the rules for juvenile life-insurance policies. There is rarely if ever a legitimate reason to insure a child’s life for a large sum. But only a few states — most recently, Maryland , in response to Prince’s death — have established standards or set limits on the amount of insurance that can be taken out on a child’s life. 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.

Read more: The Post’s View: Children are killed for insurance money. Maryland is doing something about it. The Post’s View: Maryland took a step to protect vulnerable, young lives. Other states should follow suit. Hera McLeod: My son’s father killed him for insurance money. Full justice hasn’t been served. The Post’s View: Too many children are killed for in