Parents reeling after learning a convicted paedophile filmed cheerleading events and coached young girls at an Auckland gym have been bullied after raising concerns on social media.
And the Herald can reveal that photos of teenagers in cheerleading outfits found at the sex predator's house by Customs investigators were taken at events he was hired to shoot after his release from prison.
The Herald revealed yesterday that former athletes from Cheer Dynamix in Papakura were sickened to learn child sex offender Nikola Michael Marinovich, 34, was allowed to frequent the gym and have contact with cheerleaders as young as 13 or 14.
They claim they were misled about the predator's sexual offending and several have now approached police.
Cheer Dynamix owner Andrei Coman has admitted knowingly hiring Marinovich at six cheerleading events run by Coman's company CheerSport NZ and apologised to parents.
Coman also says comments he made in 2013 claiming underage sex allegations against Marinovich were false were "deeply misguided".
One of the parents told the Herald she was angry Coman - an old friend of Marinovich - had allowed a convicted child sex offender to associate with young cheerleaders.
"I feel there has been a lot of minimising culpability and damage control by Andrei."
Parents were led to believe Marinovich was only hired to work on competitions, she claimed.
"Now we hear that he was coaching in the gym and socialising.
"It seems that Andrei didn't believe the charges against Marinovich so didn't feel he was a threat to the children, despite his conviction and subsequent jail time. It's only now that Marinovich's home was raided and found to have child pornography, that [it's] hard to support."
The Herald has been sent screenshots from a private Facebook group for Cheer Dynamix parents in which several are bullied for raising concerns about Coman's judgement and the safety of their kids.
"I have googled Nikola Marinovich and I definitely have concerns," one parent wrote.
Another wrote: "The fact that they knew of his previous convictions and still employed him makes me sick to the stomach. Peopiphiles [sic] do not rehabilitate. I personally am extremely disappointed at the potential risk to my child."
The posts sparked an angry response from other parents, who thanked Coman for being "transparent" and claimed the gym had always taken good care of young athletes.
"If that's how you feel then leave. And learn how to spell while you're at it," one woman wrote.
Another demanded that parents raise concerns direct with the gym rather than sharing them with the group.
Coman told parents to "be kind" and said the revelations were "troubling and shocking for us too".
In a statement last week from "crisis communications" firm Dynamic Media, Coman told the Herald Marinovich only worked at six CheerSport NZ competitions and "did not film at my events".
However, in a letter sent to parents last week after he was approached by the Herald for comment, Coman admitted Marinovich had "occasionally visited" the cheerleading gym.
He also confirmed asking Marinovich to film a cheerleading event in February last year for a team about to travel overseas.
"We asked him to film the routine using our own gym camera as we were busy coaching the team. All the footage from the camera was uploaded on the gym computer and I personally edited the Dallas Showcase promotional video.
"We all recognise that you – our athletes – and your safety is what is most important in all of this. I want you to know that I personally have taken many learnings from this."
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Meanwhile, the New Zealand Cheer Union is carrying out an independent review after the Herald revealed the organisation had hired Marinovich to video its national competitions in 2018 and 2019, the latter while he was on bail for serious child sex abuse image charges.
In a letter to parents and athletes, the union said it had contacted police about cheerleading images found on Marinovich's computers and cheerleading uniforms found in his bedroom.
"The Police have told us that, 'The possession of those uniforms would have come about from [Marinovich's] previous involvement as a cheerleading coach and the images would be from his role as the contracted cameraman for events'."
Coman declined to comment, referring the Herald to the Cheer Union letter which said the objectionable publications found on Marinovich's computer were not related to cheerleading organisations.