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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Arizona couple indicted for attempting to extort Georgia Tech

ATLANTA - Ronald Bell was arraigned before Magistrate Judge Regina Cannon on charges arising from a conspiracy to extort the Georgia Institute of Technology by falsely claiming an individual associated with its basketball program committed sexual assault.  Bell and co-defendant Jennifer Pendley were indicted on these charges by a federal grand jury on August 24, 2022.

“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.”

“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. 

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 is also alleged to have communicated with representatives of Georgia Tech and demanded money in exchange for not reporting the claimed sexual assault.  Ultimately, the security guard admitted to law enforcement that his statements were false and that Bell asked him to participate in the scheme to support the false sexual assault claim.

The indictment alleges Ronald Bell, 56, and Jennifer Pendley, 50, both from Oro Valley, Arizona, committed conspiracy to transmit a threat interstate, conspiracy to extort property from another, and attempted extortion. Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges.  The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber is prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Updated October 18, 2022