SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California water polo coach was convicted Wednesday of sexually assaulting teenage girls during underwater training sessions while he claimed to be preparing them for competition, prosecutors said.
Jurors convicted Bahram Hojreh — who coached for the International Water Polo Club in Los Alamitos, California, and Kennedy High School in nearby La Palma — of 22 felony counts including sexual battery and lewd acts on a child on nine teenage victims from 2012 to 2017, the Orange County District Attorney's office said in a statement.
Hojreh, 46, was also convicted of a lesser assault charge on a tenth victim, prosecutors said.
During trial, victims testified that the coach abused them underwater during coaching sessions and claimed it was to “toughen them up” for competition. In some instances, their parents were poolside when the assaults occurred at an Olympic-size pool at a military base in Los Alamitos, prosecutors said.
“The wounds these young girls suffered at the hands of this monster may not be visible, but they are very, very real and they are scars that they will carry with them forever," District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in the statement.
Hojreh is being held without bail pending sentencing. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 12.
A message seeking comment was left for his lawyer.
After the allegations, Hojreh was barred from participation in USA Water Polo events.
A group of players who accused him of abuse filed a lawsuit against the club and USA Water Polo, alleging they failed to protect them. Last year, they reached a $14 million settlement.