Ron Bell, an Arizona man who was convicted of orchestrating a plan to extort Georgia Tech by falsely accusing its former men’s basketball coach, Josh Pastner, of assaulting his girlfriend, was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison Wednesday.
Bell, from Oro Valley, Arizona, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit extortion. The government said Bell, who had been Pastner’s friend, admitted he recruited a security guard who worked Georgia Tech basketball games to falsely claim that he witnessed Pastner assault Jennifer Pendley.
Bell had promised the security guard a share of what he alleged would be a $20 million settlement.
“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.”
Under the terms of Bell’s sentence, he will remain imprisoned until May 2025. He has been jailed in Atlanta since September 2022. He also will serve three years of supervised release, which will include being subject to a mental health program, an alcohol and substance abuse program and routine drug testing.
Pendley also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion. She is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 9.
Pastner, who was fired as Georgia Tech’s coach on March 10, previously denied the couple’s allegations, saying there was “zero truth to any of those disgusting, bogus allegations. It’s disgusting.”
The government said Bell also communicated with Georgia Tech officials and demanded money in exchange for not reporting the alleged sexual assault. In one text message, Bell wrote: “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 …”
Georgia Tech officials refused to pay Bell the bribe, and Pendley filed a lawsuit shortly thereafter in which she claimed sexual assault, sexual battery and infliction of emotional distress.
The security guard later recanted his statement to law enforcement about witnessing Pastner assault Pendley before a game against Sam Houston State in Atlanta on Nov. 22, 2016. The security guard later admitted he wasn’t working that day and was out of the state and made the allegations “in exchange for an offer of a portion of an anticipated civil monetary settlement/judgment.”
An Arizona judge had previously convicted Bell on six misdemeanor charges for falsely accusing Pastner of sexually assaulting Pendley in a hotel room in Houston in February 2016.