ATLANTA – An Arizona couple has been indicted on charges stemming from a reported scheme to extortion the Georgia Institute of Technology by falsely claiming the school’s basketball coach committed sexual assault.
A federal grand jury indicted 56-year-old Ronald Bell and his girlfriend, 50-year-old Jennifer Pendley, on charges of attempted extortion, conspiracy to transmit a threat interstate, and conspiracy to extort property from another.
According to the indictment and information provided in court, Bell and Pendley allegedly worked with a Georgia Tech security guard to falsely accuse basketball coach Josh Pastner of sexual assault.
Officials say Bell recruited the guard to claim that he saw Pastner assault Pendley, who later filed a lawsuit claiming sexual battery, sexual assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“The defendants are alleged to have falsely accused Georgia Tech’s coach of sexual assault,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “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.”
Investigators say that Bell told the security guard the false accusation could be worth $20 million and is accused of demanding money from the university to not report the claim. After an investigation, officials say the security guard admitted his statements were false.
“Once again, greed does not pay,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “These defendants sought to damage the reputations of the institution and coach for their own financial gain. The FBI will not stop in bringing people who try and commit this type of fraud to justice.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Ronald Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, allegedly conspired with each other, and a Georgia Tech security guard, to falsely accuse an individual associated with Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team of sexual assault. Bell is alleged to have recruited the security guard to claim falsely that he witnessed an assault of Pendley. Pendley filed a lawsuit claiming sexual battery, sexual assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
ESPN reports that Bell was a former friend of Pastner and had perviously been convicted in Arizona on six misdemeanor counts including attempted tampering with a witness.