Ariz. man sentenced for accusing basketball coach of sexual assault, attempting to extort Georgia Tech

Ronald Bell, a 57-year-old resident of Oro Valley, Arizona, has been sentenced to two years and nine months in federal prison for attempting to extort Georgia Tech University. The case revolved around false allegations of sexual assault made against the university's men's basketball coach, with Bell attempting to profit from the scheme.

ORIGINAL STORY: Arizona man pleads guilty in scheme to falsely accuse Georgia Tech coach of sexual assault

According to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan, Bell conspired with his co-defendant, Jennifer Pendley, and a security guard at Georgia Tech to orchestrate the extortion plot. Bell recruited the security guard to falsely claim that he had witnessed the coach committing sexual assault. In exchange for the false accusation, Bell promised the guard a portion of the anticipated extortion payout, estimated to be worth $20 million, and a new Jeep.

The extortion attempt involved communications with representatives of Georgia Tech, where Bell demanded a substantial sum of money to keep the fictitious sexual assault claim from being reported. In one text exchange, Bell warned that the situation would turn "ugly" if the university failed to comply with his demands. He claimed to have attempted to resolve the matter amicably without damaging Georgia Tech's reputation, but to no avail.

When Georgia Tech refused to succumb to the extortion demands, Pendley filed a lawsuit falsely accusing the coach of sexual battery, sexual assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit leaned on the fabricated claims of the security guard who had already agreed to cooperate with Bell's scheme.

However, as the investigation proceeded, the security guard eventually confessed that his statements were false and that Bell had coerced him into lying to support the fabricated sexual assault claim.

On March 1, 2023, Bell pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy, leading to his conviction. In addition to the prison sentence, he will also be subjected to three years of supervised release after serving his term.

The investigation into this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber led the prosecution.