Arizona man pleads guilty to extorting Georgia Tech
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia
ATLANTA - Ronald Bell, who conspired to extort money from Georgia Institute of Technology, has pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit extortion.
“The defendant tried to extort Georgia Tech and egregiously tarnish the reputation of the university’s coach with a false claim of sexual assault,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “By his guilty plea he acknowledged the lie and his criminal conduct, and will now face the consequences for his crime.”
“Bell sought to severely damage the reputation of the institution and their coach solely for his own financial gain,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI will not tolerate false allegations and will do everything in our power to seek the truth and hold individuals who commit these type of crimes accountable for their selfish actions.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: Ronald Bell pleaded guilty to conspiring with his co-defendant, Jennifer Pendley, and a security guard at Georgia Tech, to falsely accuse the coach of Georgia Tech men’s basketball team of sexual assault. Bell admitted he recruited the security guard to falsely claim that the guard witnessed an assault. Bell 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 communicated with representatives of Georgia Tech and demanded money in exchange for not reporting the claimed sexual assault. For example, he texted a representative of Georgia Tech that: “This is going to get very ugly. GT has made no effort . . . to amicably resolve this . . . I guess this has to get ugly. I tried to resolve this without damaging GT’s reputation . . . .”
After Georgia Tech refused to pay the bribe, Pendley filed a lawsuit claiming sexual battery, sexual assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. These claims falsely alleged that the guard witnessed the coach sexually assault Pendley. Ultimately, the security guard admitted that his statements were false and that Bell asked him to lie to support the false sexual assault claim.
Pendley previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion on February 22, 2023.
Sentencing for Ronald Bell, 56, of Oro Valley, Arizona, is scheduled for June 8, 2023 at 11:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash.
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.
Updated March 1, 2023