Orange County District Attorney Press Release
For Immediate Release, Case # 12ZF0139: September 6, 2013
*Gang member co-defendant is a fugitive in this case
SANTA ANA – A man was convicted today of the cold case conspiracy murder of his wife in 1998 to collect a $1 million life insurance policy. Nuzzio Begaren, 52, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count each of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison at his sentencing Oct. 4, 2013, at 9:00 a.m.in Department C-30, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Gang member Guillermo Espinoza, 38, faces the same charges as Begaren. He is a fugitive with a no-bail warrant for his arrest. Espinoza is listed at www.orangecountyda.com as one of the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) Most Wanted.
Circumstances of the Case
On July 4, 1997, Nuzzio Begaren married Elizabeth Begaren, a correctional officer at a California state prison. Three days later, on July 7, 1997, he took out a $1 million life insurance policy on his new wife. Sometime between July 1997 and January 1998, Nuzzio Begaren solicited members of a Los Angeles criminal street gang to murder Elizabeth Begaren.
On the night of Jan. 17, 1998, Nuzzio Begaren took the victim and his 10-year-old daughter to a shopping mall in Burbank with the knowledge that gang members would be waiting to carry out the arranged murder. While shopping in Macy’s, Nuzzio Begaren placed $5,000 in cash in his wife’s purse as payment for the pending murder under the pretense of having her hold their shopping money. Nuzzio Begaren pretended to be alarmed upon seeing a group of gang members watching him and his family. He left with Elizabeth Begaren and his daughter.
At approximately 11:00 p.m. that night, Espinoza and his accomplices are accused of following Nuzzio Begaren and the victim in their car. Nuzzio Begaren exited California State Route 91 in Anaheim and then attempted to re-enter the freeway. Espinoza and the other gang members are accused of running him off the road.
The gang members are accused of getting out of the vehicle armed with firearms and approaching the victim. Nuzzio Begaren got out of the driver’s seat under the pretense of moving to the back of the vehicle to protect his daughter. Espinoza is accused of murdering Elizabeth Begaren by shooting her one time in the head and chest. Espinoza and his accomplices are accused of taking her purse containing the $5,000 payment and fleeing the scene.
The case was immediately investigated by the Anaheim Police Department (APD) in 1998 and Nuzzio Begaren was a suspect, but the case went cold. Nuzzio Begaren collected the $1 million life insurance on Elizabeth Begaren a few years after the murder.
Investigators from APD and the OCDA Bureau of Investigation began re-investigating this case and developed new evidence, leading to charges and a subsequent indictment against the defendants in 2012.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff