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Orange County water polo coach convicted of sexually abusing 10 teenage players

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An Orange County water polo coach was convicted Wednesday of sexually abusing 10 teenage girls he trained over a five-year period and could face more than 20 years in prison, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Bahram Hojreh, 46, of Irvine was convicted by a jury on 22 felony counts, including sexual penetration, sexual battery and lewd acts on a child, the district attorney said in a news release. Hojreh was accused of abusing nine water polo players between the ages of 13 and 17.

He was also found guilty of a misdemeanor count of simple assault against a 10th woman, whose age was not provided by authorities, but he was acquitted of the lewd-acts charge connected to that victim.

The assaults took place between 2012 and 2017 and underwater during training sessions at the pool at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, as parents near the pool watched unaware, according to prosecutors.

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Hojreh was a coach at the International Water Polo Club in Los Alamitos and at Kennedy High School in La Palma.

USA Water Polo and the International Water Polo Club agreed last year to a nearly $14-million settlement with the victims, who alleged that the organizations didn’t protect them from the abuse.

In the criminal case, the jury deliberated for less than three days before reading their verdict out loud Wednesday morning at the Santa Ana courtroom in front of Hojreh’s family members and supporters and a group of 15 victims and parents.

The former coach, who was charged in April 2018, has remained free during the trial on $250,000 bail and was taken into custody after the verdict, according to officials. At his scheduled sentencing hearing Jan. 12, Hojreh faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison plus six months in the Orange County Jail. He is being held without bail until then.

Over the course of the five-week trial, nearly a dozen women testified that Hojreh “touched their breasts, twisted their nipples, touched their genitals above and below their swimsuits and digitally penetrated them underwater during coaching sessions,” according to the district attorney news release. They said that he told them the actions were to “toughen them up” for competition, according to the district attorney.

The women testified that they believed Hojreh’s reputation as a water polo coach would help them reach their dreams of playing the sport at the collegiate level; Hojreh denied the allegations in his own testimony.

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In 2017, some of Hojreh’s players, who were 14 to 17 at the time, began discussing the sexual abuse and told their parents, who then reported it to police, according to authorities.

Hojreh has been banned for life from participating in USA Water Polo events.

“These young women will spend the rest of their lives trying to forget these abhorrent moments of their childhood because someone they thought they could trust turned out to be a pedophile,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in the release. “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.”

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