Man given 33 months in prison for Georgia Tech extortion scheme


An Arizona man who was found guilty of trying to extort Georgia Tech with a false accusation against former basketball coach Josh Pastner was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison this week.

Ronald Bell and Jennifer Pendley were indicted last year for their roles in the scheme. Bell and Pendley each pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit extortion.

Bell, a former friend of Pastner’s, admitted he colluded with a security guard by having him falsely claim that he witnessed Pastner assault Pendley.

Last year the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Bell demanded money from Georgia Tech representatives in exchange for not going through with the assault claim.

The security guard ultimately confessed to law enforcement that he made false statements on the couple’s behalf because he was promised a portion of the demanded money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which Bell promised could be approach $20 million.

“Ronald Bell tried to extort Georgia Tech and ruin the reputation of its basketball coach,” U.S. attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a statement. “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.”

In January 2018, Pastner filed suit in Arizona saying that Bell and his girlfriend, Pendley, were attempting to blackmail him with the threat of a false sexual assault accusation. Bell and Pendley countersued a month later claiming multiple instances of harassment. But Pastner was cleared of wrongdoing by a Title IX investigation.

Pastner, 45, was the head coach at Memphis from 2009-16 and Georgia Tech from 2016-23. Georgia Tech fired Pastner after the 2022-23 season due to performance issues.

Pendley will be sentenced Aug. 9 for her role.

–Field Level Media

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