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Police allege Hanover Taekwondo instructor used 'classic grooming behaviors' in sexual abuse of 14-year-old

Police allege Hanover Taekwondo instructor used 'classic grooming behaviors' in sexual abuse of 14-y
Police allege Hanover Taekwondo instructor used 'classic grooming behaviors' in sexual abuse 02:29

HANOVER, Md.  -- Steve Choi, 42, a Taekwando instructor in Anne Arundel County, is now facing seven charges relating to sexual abuse of a 14-year-old who took classes from him at Lion Choi's Martial Arts in Hanover.

WJZ spoke to a parent with a child who attends classes there. She asked to remain anonymous. 

"It's very scary to know that you trust someone with your child, and to know that someone else trusted them as well. There's an allegation that trust was broken in the most awful way possible, in the most predatory way possible," the parent said.

She said she was shocked by the allegations, as are many others at the family-run business.

"There are family members in there finding this out and are distraught and devastated and still reaching out to parents and making sure the parents know and are aware and asking what they can do to be helpful," the mother said.

WJZ has obtained charging documents on the case that graphically detail multiple sexual encounters.

"Mr. Choi exhibited classic grooming behaviors by how he treated [the victim] making [the victim] feel ...special and thought they were in a relationship," police wrote.

Also, according to the charging documents, the "[victim] stated Mr. Choi promised [victim] a scholarship and told [victim] that if [victim] told anyone, [victim] would ruin his life".  

Police said the abuse happened between June 2018 and September 2019.

The victim came forward in September 2021 -- reluctantly according to police, saying they knew Choi's wife and children.

"[Victim] stated [victim] 'felt disgusted because I feel as though I ruined a family,'" charging documents state.

But ultimately, the alleged victim decided to go to authorities, according to charging documents, because "[they were] worried, 'Who knows who else he would be doing that to?' and [victim] doesn't want this to happen to anybody else."

Marc Limansky with the Anne Arundel County Police Department said investigations of abuse have to be thorough.

"We have to make sure all of the information is made available to our investigators whether it is witness testimony or physical evidence," he said.

The Taekwondo studio was closed for much of the day Wednesday. A sign on the door said it was due to COVID-19 and staffing issues. A person at the facility later said they would have no comment to the media.

Parents came to pick up their children and several said they were just learning of the news.

WJZ asked police if they believe there are other victims.

"We do not have any evidence of other victims at this time but we do want to be cautious and put this information out there in case there are any other children out there or any other individuals who believe that this individual, Choi, may have had contact with their child, particularly within the last several years," Limansky said.

Court records show Choi was released on $50,000 bond. WJZ was unable to reach him for comment.

Police had this message for the public: "As this is still an active and ongoing investigation, the Anne Arundel County Police is urging anyone with information on this or other incidents involving the suspect, Steve Choi, to contact the Anne Arundel County Child Abuse Unit at 410-222-4733. One can also remain anonymous by calling the Anne Arundel County Tip Line at 410-222-4700 or Metro Crime Stoppers."

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