A dozen female water polo players who accused their coach of sexual abuse will split nearly $14 million after settling a lawsuit against USA Water Polo and the California-based International Water Polo Club.
As reported by the Associated Press, the $13.85 settlement was filed Friday in Orange County Superior Court and is being paid by the insurer for both organizations.
"We have heard the plaintiffs' testimony, and their allegations are heartbreaking," USA Water Polo CEO Christopher Ramsey said in a statement. "We hope that this allows them to begin a new chapter in their lives."
The athletes alleged that International Water Polo Club and the national governing body for the sport failed to protect them from abuse by coach Bahram Hojreh from 2012 to 2017.
Hojreh, 45, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 victims, nine of whom were children at the time of the acts, according to the AP. The alleged crimes occurred during one-on-one coaching sessions, prosecutors said.
Charges filed by the Orange County district attorney include lewd acts on a child, sexual penetration with a foreign object and sexual battery by fraud, which alleges the victims were not aware they were being molested because the coach said the "touching served a professional purpose."
"He'd get in the pool and tell the girls, 'This is what's going to happen in college. You need to get used to this,'" said Morgan Stewart, the attorney representing 11 of the athletes. "Then he'd reach under their swimsuits and assault them."
Additional accusations involved Hojreh teaching the tactic to his players of trying to grab and penetrate the genitals of opponents underwater.
Hojreh has been permanently banned from water polo by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the watchdog formed in 2017 to handle sex-abuse cases in the Olympic realm. He's one of 10 people affiliated with USA Water Polo banned from the sport since 2018 due to criminal matters.
Lawsuits related to Hojreh are still pending against school districts in Anaheim and Irvine where he coached.