A prominent water polo coach in southern California has been convicted of various assaults against 10 different girls when they were still teenagers under his care.
Bahram Hojreh, 46, of Irvine, California, has been convicted of 22 felony counts, including sexual battery, sexual penetration, and lewd acts on a child, the Orange County District Attorney's Office has reported.
According to the accusations, Hojreh "touched [the girls'] breasts, twisted their nipples, touched their genitals above and below their swimsuits and digitally penetrated them underwater during coaching sessions." He attempted to justify his actions to the girls by telling them the assaults would "toughen them up" for competition.
Even worse, many of these assaults occurred underwater during pool training sessions at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. Parents often attended these training sessions, which means Hojreh — who coached at the International Water Polo Club in Los Alamitos and at Kennedy High School in La Palma — molested some of their daughters while they were oblivious nearby.
Between 2012 and 2017, Hojreh sexually assaulted nine girls who were between the ages of 13 and 17 at the time. He has also been convicted of simple assault of a tenth victim. According to prosecutors, the girls began sharing their concerns about Hojreh with one another in late 2017. They were also afraid that he might continue to victimize others. By 2018, they reported the abuse to their parents, who, in turn, reported it to law enforcement.
Below is a news clip which aired on CBS Los Angeles shortly after his arrest:
During the five-week trial, Hojreh took the stand in his own defense and denied the allegations, claiming that his accusers were participating in a "conspiracy" against him. The jury took three days to deliver a guilty verdict. Hojreh is scheduled to be sentenced in January. He faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in state prison plus six months in the Orange County jail, according to the New Santa Ana.
After Hojreh's conviction, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer released a statement: "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. 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.
"My heart breaks for each one of these victims and for their parents who did everything they could to help their children achieve their athletic dreams and instead had to learn the painful truth that their daughters had been molested right in front of them – and there was nothing they could do to protect them. Thankfully, these brave girls had the courage to speak up about the abuse and prevented additional girls from being molested."
Hojreh has also been banned for life from all USA Water Polo activities. The organization settled a lawsuit with the victims in 2021, agreeing to pay them $13.5 million.
Notably, another water polo and swim coach at Kennedy High School, where Hojreh worked, was also arrested and charged with molesting teen girls. In 2018, Joshua Christopher Owens pled guilty to molesting three girls between 2014 and 2016. At the time, Hojreh encouraged his team to report any instances of abuse to the authorities.
Prior to his conviction, Hojreh coached for 27 years and won 10 national championships.