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ATLANTA - Ronald Bell has been sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for extorting Georgia Tech. Bell recruited a security guard to falsely claim that the guard witnessed an assault by its basketball coach in exchange for part of the extortion payout he expected to receive from the university.
“Ronald Bell tried to extort Georgia Tech and ruin the reputation of its basketball coach,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “As federal prosecutors, we have a responsibility to the citizens of this district to pursue accountability and justice for crimes of sexual violence. But in this case Bell attempted to exploit the mission of our office, and law enforcement partners, to combat sexual assault through a brazen effort to enrich himself at the expense of Georgia Tech and a member of its staff. Bell has now been held accountable 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. “This sentence proves that 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 extort the university by falsely accusing the coach of the men’s basketball team of sexual assault. Bell recruited the security guard to falsely claim that the guard witnessed an assault by the coach. Bell told the security guard that the false accusation of sexual assault could be worth $20 million to Bell and Pendley and promised the guard a share of the money and a new Jeep.
Bell also communicated with representatives of Georgia Tech and demanded money in exchange for not reporting the fictitious 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 Bell, 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.
Ronald Bell, 57, of Oro Valley, Ariz., was sentenced to two years, nine months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Bell was convicted of the charge of conspiracy on March 1, 2023, after he pleaded guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber prosecuted 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.