Ronald Bell and Jennifer Pendley were indicted and arraigned in Atlanta on federal charges from a conspiracy to extort Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner by claiming a sexual assault, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced Tuesday. Bell and Pendley were indicted by a federal grand jury Aug. 24.
The indictment alleges Bell, 56, and Pendley, 50, both from Oro Valley, Ariz., committed conspiracy to transmit a threat interstate, conspiracy to extort property from another and attempted extortion.
“The defendants are alleged to have falsely accused Georgia Tech’s coach of sexual assault,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a statement. “They then demanded a large payment in exchange for a retraction of the claim. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and our other federal law enforcement partners are especially proficient in exposing false allegations designed to extort money. Individuals who attempt to perpetrate such criminal schemes at the expense of law-abiding citizens will be caught and prosecuted.”
The indictment is the latest in a case that began in the fall of 2017 when Bell, a former friend of Pastner’s, made a charge of NCAA violations followed by the assault accusation.
Buchanan, the indictment and other information presented in court allege that Bell and his girlfriend Pendley conspired with each other, and a Tech security guard, to make the false accusation of sexual assault, according to the statement released Tuesday. Bell is alleged to have recruited the security guard to claim falsely that he witnessed an assault against Pendley. Pendley filed a lawsuit claiming sexual battery, sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to the statement, Bell allegedly told the security guard that the false accusation of sexual assault could be worth $20 million and promised the guard a share of the money. Bell also is alleged to have communicated with representatives of Tech and demanded money in exchange for not reporting the claimed sexual assault. The security guard admitted to law enforcement that his statements were false and that Bell asked him to participate. It was determined that the security guard was not working on the day the alleged assault took place.
No trial date was announced.
Bell, who was convicted in July 2021 of concocting allegations of sexual assault against Pastner, was sentenced to three years of supervised probation in an Arizona magistrate court. Bell also was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $719,002 for Pastner’s legal fees.